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UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBRARY 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://archive.org/details/writinsandOOcunn 



WRIT IN SAND 



WRIT IN SAND 

BY 

R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM 



^'Vivo si miro adelante 
Muero si miro hacia atrds 
Me columpio en el ahora 
Un dia menos, un dia mas.'' 

SALVADOR DE MADARIAGA 



Essay Index Reprint Series 



t 



BOOKS FOR LIBRARIES PRESS 
FREEPORT, NEW YORK 



First Published 1932 
Reprinted 1969 




LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER: 

69-17571 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



TO 



LOUISA MIEVILLE 



CONTENTS 

Page 

PREFACE ix 

writ in sand 3 

tschiffely's ride 39 

"creeps" 8 I 

CAMARA DE LOBOS 99 

FIN DE RACE II5 

THE STATIONMASTEr's HORSE 155 



PREFACE 

TO THOUGHT-READERS 

Prefaces are written usually either to disarm 
the public, or to give a foretaste of the writer's 
quality. They fail, generally, in both their 
objects. Your preface-monger is constrained 
perforce to give himself away, for he speaks 
as man to man, not through the mouth of any 
of his characters. 

The one advantage we poor footsloggers on 
the dull paths of prose possess over those who 
on the wings of verse attempt to scale Olym- 
pus, is that we are not forced, as they are, ever 
to meet our readers really face to face, unless 
we venture into prefaces, prologues, fore- 
wordsy or what you call 'em. They, on the con- 
trary, if their verse is to rise to poetry, must 
put their souls' blood into all they write, or 
remain stodged for ever in the slough of ver- 
sifying. This may be the reason why most 
actors, even the best of them, are usually poor 
public speakers, for it is vastly different for a 
man to stand up and utter his own thoughts, 

ix 



PREFACE 

and to deliver well-conned-over words already 
written for him. 

Therefore, few writers, nowadays, care to 
come to close grips with those they write for, 
fearing perhaps that a half -nelson, or cross- 
buttock, may leave them sprawling on the 
ground. Again, your public, avid of details as 
to a writer's private life, thinking perhaps, but 
absolutely falsely, that they assist it to under- 
stand the man, or perhaps out of mere lewd 
curiosity — ^the curse of common minds — seems 
to imagine that a painter or a poet either must 
have some secret, or that when pen or brush 
is laid over, that he is different in essence from 
any other man. 

Nature has so contrived it, and I admit it is 
annoying of her, that even genius must eat and 
sleep, endure the pangs of tooth and belly 
achey fall into and fall out of love, and fulfil 
all the functions of any ordinary man, that I 
refrain from setting down, not wishing to 
offend the gentlewomen, although I know 
they are not in especial mealy-mouthed. Thus 
nothing pleases the "respectable" so con- 
sumedly as to read that a writer or a politician 
drinks or takes drugs in secret, keeps a fat mis- 

X 



PREFACE 

tress as a foil to a thin wife, changes his socks 
infrequently, or any other detail of the kind 
that brings him nearer to themselves. Far 
fewer care about the workings of his mind, 
those little self-revealing details that are cer- 
tain to leak out, in an aside, a preface^ footnote 
or what not, that, generally without his know- 
ledge, force him to drop the mask. The 
spoken word can be manipulated, so as to con- 
ceal the speaker's personality, but when a 
writer takes his pen in hand, in spite of all 
that he can do, it is straight manifest. 

It is a natural instinct in the majority of 
men to keep a secret garden in their souls, a 
something that they do not care to talk about, 
still less to set down^ for the other members 
of the herd to trample on. 

This is most manifest in those who write 
their own biographies, confessions, memoirs or 
by whatsoever title publishers palm on them, 
just as a card-sharper palms a card upon a 
mug. 

Possibly, St. Augustine and Jean Jacques 
Rousseau imagined that they had unpacked 
their budget so completely, nothing remained to 
tell, when they had set down their misdeeds, 
that after all in neither case were very black, 

xi 



PREFACE 

to feed their vanity. A Rabelaisian anecdote 
of old times in France relates that in the tum- 
bril a murderer and a ratepayer of the Cities 
of the Plains were going to be hanged. The 
crowd was little interested in the murderer, 
but called out vociferously, "Quel est le 
bougrer" The nonconformist, being a well- 
mannered many stood up and doffing his hat 
courteously, said, "Citoyens, c'est moi." Thus, 
without need of any preface, in his one flight 
of oratory that has come down to us, he re- 
vealed all that the public had a right to know 
about him. The opportunity was such as does 
not fall to every literary man when he sets out 
to talk about himself. It placed its utterer 
high in the ranks of those who write, have 
written, or will write confessions, and over- 
tops them all in spontaneity, lack of premedi- 
tation, and in its brevity. 

Looking over thisy my booklet, with the dis- 
taste most writers surely feel for the perusal 
of their own writing, for few of us can, as is 
reported of Jehovah, look at their work and 
say that it is good, I ask my readers to be 
lenient with "The Stationmaster's Horse." 

Sometimes the smell of an orange freshly 
xii 



PREFACE 

cut recalls the scent of the wild orange trees in 
bloom, that night, upon my ride. Then I re- 
member how sticky the piece of rapadura, that 
I had in my pocket, made my fingers, when I 
ate a piece of it, and how I gave what remained 
over to the "Zebruno," when I unsaddled him. 

The ride, the horse, the fireflies, the musky 
odour of the alligators at the "pass," the 
rustling palm trees^ and the Southern Cross 
that lighted the "Zebruno" and myself in our 
too brief companionship, were stamped upon 
my brain, more years ago than, as we say in 
Scottish phrase, "I care to mind." 

The portraits of my two departed friends 
("may the earth lay lightly on them!") J 
wrote because I thought I owed it to them to 
endeavour to preserve something of their 
strange personality. 

Most likely, in writing of their characters, 
I have done nothing but reveal my own, with- 
out my knowledge. 

If so, a "fico" for the revelation j all I can 
do is to stand up,, and taking off my hat salute 
^he public, hoping the tumbril will jog gin- 
gerly, to its appointed goal. 

R. B. CUNNINGHAME GrAHAM. 

xiii 



WRIT IN SAND 



WRIT IN SAND 

At sundown, long lines of motor vans, as huge 
as arks, converged upon a sandy waste space of 
the southern little town. Over it towered the 
Ligurian Alps, rugged and sun-scorched. The 
waves of Mare Nostrum just lapped against 
the sea wall that bounded the neglected piece 
of ground on which a canvas city was to arise, 
like Jonah's gourd, during the night. The 
vans scrunched on the pebbles as they came up 
in long procession, and formed a great corral. 

Each monstrous car took its own place with 
mathematical precision, for Amar's Circus had 
been long upon the road, having pushed what 
it called upon its posters "Une Audacieuse 
Randonnee" as far as Angora, and was now 
back again in France. 

From the cars came the cries of animals^ the 
miauling of the lions, the grunts of camels, 
and the stamping of the horses eager to be 
fed. 

The scent that can be best described as "Bou- 
quet de Cirque," compounded of the odours 
of the various animals, sawdust and orange 
peel, of petrol, dried perspiration, leather, of 

3 



WRIT IN SAND 

cordage, canvas ill laid up when damp,, cheap 
perfumes and cosmetics, all the quintessence 
of a world apart from any other kind of world, 
a world where men and women risk their lives 
daily, and reck nothing of it, a world in which 
they live, in fellowship with horses, elephants 
and mules, a fellowship that makes them dif- 
ferent to all other kind of men, as sailors were 
in the' old world of wind-jammers, floated out 
into the night air. An army sprang into exist- 
ence, as it were, from the ground, composed of 
workmen, unlike any other workmen, looking 
for the most part like grooms and chauffeurs out 
of place, but smart, alert and singularly quick 
upon their feet. All of them seemed able to turn 
a somersault, saddle a horsey or swarm up a 
rope ladder, as well as a smart seaman in an 
old China tea clipper, when he ran aloft into 
a top, over the futtock shrouds. Babel itself, 
when Jahwe, out of jealousy of man set con- 
fusion on the tongue of men, was not more 
polyglot. Russian, American, English, French, 
Italian, Spanish, Arabic, German, and Czecho- 
slovak jostled^ one another in their mouths. 
None spoke the others' language properly, but 
everyone knew the word for horse^ rope, 

4 



WRIT IN SAND 

saddle, dance, sawdust, knot, slack or tight 
wire, handspring and elephant, in the others' 
tongue. For ordinary purposes, they had 
formed a lingua franca, out of the various 
elements of speech of all the languages, shotted 
with oaths and with indecencies, that worn as 
smooth as pebbles in the current of their 
speech had become merely adjectives. 

These heterogeneous good companions, for 
no one better merited the term, like ants, set 
at once busily to work, under the blue glare of 
the electric light, that ag by magic, others of the 
band had installed on what an hour ago was a 
mere sandy waste. 

Long tents, to serve as Stables, grew up like 
mushrooms, leaving a vacant space, where the 
great tent should rise* To them, men in 
trousers of a horsy cut, or breeches unbut- 
toned at the knees, muffled in greatcoats with 
woollen comforters up to their ears, covering 
their gipsy-looking greasy hair, for far Mul- 
tan had sent its quota to the kaleidoscopic host, 
led horses that stepped as quietly and uncon- 
cernedly as if the planks down which they 
walked had been green fields, those fields that 
they would see no more, for once a circus horse 

5 



WRIT IN SAND 

their lot is fixed as the fixed stars. 

Piebaldsy roans, chestnuts, sorrels, duns, 
skewbalds, creams with black points, steel- 
greys, and whites of every shade from purest 
snow to honey-coloured and that palest shade 
of cream, known in the Argentine as Duck's 
Egg, formed an equine flower-bed. 

Chiron himself when seated underneath a 
spreading oak in Thessaly — he chose the finest 
of the mares to blend with the most beautiful 
of the young men to form the Centaur, that 
flight of man's imagination, that for once has 
outgone nature — could not have found better 
material to his hand. The equine race of the 
whole world had furnished representatives, 
from Shetland ponies up to the heavy Meck- 
lenburger, with his round back, fit to count 
money on, and his stout legs, that do not seem 
to feel the strain when six or seven riders poise 
and caper on him as he canters round the ring. 
Yukers from the Hungarian puzta, with their 
fine limbs, light bone and saddle backs, as if 
nature herself had formed them for the circus, 
intelligent and docile, their long and flowing 
manes and tails, full gentle eyes and open 
nostrils giving them the look of an Arabian 

6 



WRIT IN SAND 

Steed designed in tapestry upon a banner 
screen in a Victorian house. In a long line they 
stepped out of their boxesy as delicately as 
Agag, with that look of comprehension and 
disdain performing animals all acquire, as if 
they felt the difference between an artist and 
a mere spectator, lolling in his stall, with a fat 
paunch and well-filled pocket-book. 

After the horses had disappeared into their 
stables, a drove of camels, herded by Alge- 
rians, or Moroccans, but perhaps best described 
as "natives/' for in what lone Duar, or in what 
black tent of camels' hair they had first heard 
the call to prayers, only themselves and Allah 
could pronounce with certainty. 

Dressed in brown jellabas, or dingy white 
burnousesy they yet preserved entire their 
racial looky that almost all the other members 
of the troupe had shed when they took on their 
circensian nationality. 

When the lions, tigers, seals and all the 
other wild beasts that made the now rapidly 
growing canvas town look as if Noah's Ark 
was delivering her cargo on Mount Ararat, had 
been caged, slowly the elephant appeared, with 
the look of peculiar cunning in his little porcine 

7 



WRIT IN SAND 

eyes that makes him only just inferior to man- 
kind, as to intelligence, although perhaps 
superior in bonhomie. He seemed to feel the 
dignity of his position as a survivor of a pre- 
historic world. All the time that the animals 
were being settled in their stableSy the work 
went on, but silently, so that when a great 
canvas dome slowly was hoisted into position 
in the middle of the waste piece of ground, it 
seemed to rise out of its own volition from the 
sand. Then and then only was the noise of 
hammers heard, as a platoon of men drove 
home great iron tent pegs, to tauten up the 
ropes. 

Around the ring they ranged the padded 
barrier^ fencing in its thirteen paces of dia- 
meter, that sacramental measurement in which 
hones and men perform in circuses, all the 
world over, whether in the centre of great 
cities or in a field outside a village, in rural 
England, Poland,, or Hungary. Seats, boxes, 
and electric lights, the high trapezes swinging 
from the roof, appeared to have been always 
just where the efficient squads of workers had 
placed them only half an hour before. 

By daybreak all was ready for the' next day's 
8 



WRIT IN SAND 

performance, and when the ring-master, 
wrapped in an old, white box-cloth greatcoat 
with huge bone' buttons, and a woollen com- 
forter round his neck, looked at the work, and 
said, like the great ring-master in Eden, "that 
it was good," a hoot on an electric whistle 
summoned all hands to breakfast in the dining 
tent. 

In the real, or the unreal world, according 
to the point of view of those who live in, or 
outside, a circus, the false dawn had vanished, 
and the sun was rising over the mountains and 
the sea. A white mist hung upon the palm 
trees, magnifying and ennobling them, just as 
it does out in the desert, or in the tropic ever- 
gladesy from whence they had originally been 
brought. The sun's first rays fell on the lateen 
sails of the fishing boats as they stole out from 
every little village port and launched into the 
sea. From them there came the mufiled sounds 
of oars, of cordage creaking in the old-time 
wooden blocks, as the great yard, that Latin 
yard, common to all the boats that sail the 
Latin sea was hoisted into place. Such yards, 
knd ships not much unlike the fishing boats 
that now began to feel the morning breeze, the' 

9 



WRIT IN SAND 



ships of Agamemnon and Ulysses, must have 
borne when Helen's smile launched them upon 
the siege of Troy. The fishing boats, their 
pointed sails giving them an air as of a flight 
of seabirds, sank by degrees below the horizon, 
as silently as gulls disappear into the haze, 
before the eye of man can mark their dis- 
appearance. Shoreward, the rippling waves 
lapped on the pebbly beaches, with a scrunch- 
ing sound as of the cat-ice crackling on the 
edges of a pond. 

The ragged mountains, dotted with villages 
grouped round their church, the houses 
sheltering about it, as it were for protection 
from the modern world, just caught the morn- 
ing sun. The panorama, fantastic and unreal, 
with the white houses of the coastal towns, the 
imported vegetation, and their look of un- 
reality, seemed designed as an ideal back- 
ground for the great dome of canvas that 
billowed gently, shivering a little in the light 
sea breeze, just as a jellyfish thrown up by the 
sea shivers upon the sand. 

All was in order, by the hour advertised. 
A van with windows cut at intervals, behind 
which sat well-dressed girls, as quiet and 

10 



WRIT IN SAND 

orderly as typists in a city office, served as the 
box-office. All seemed as permanent as if the 
dome of canvas had been the dome of a cathe- 
dral, stone-built and pointed, designed to last 
for centuries. Nothing about it gave an air of 
instability, but set one thinking that in a fleet- 
ing world, where all is changing (but as in- 
visibly as the hands move' upon a clock), canvas 
is the most fit material to build with, for those 
whose lives are after all passed in a circus, 
where they perform, even with less volition of 
their own than the trained animals, and pass 
away as the smoke of a cigarette dissolves into 
the air. 

Bands blared, and men standing before the 
side-shows shouted the charms of the bearded 
lady, pig with five legs, the human skeleton, 
and the fat woman from Trebizond, certain of 
custom, for mankind unaware of its own 
freakishness, delights in abnormalities^ seeing 
in them perhaps, something they can wonder 
at, despise, and patronize, and leave the tent 
amused and comforted by their superiority. 

A continuous stream of people passed the 
wicket gate where stood the gigantic negro in 
a green uniform, with that grin upon his face 

II 



WRIT IN SAND 

that makes the people of his race quite as 
inscrutable as the most enigmatic Japanese or 
Chinaman. Packed close as sardines in a barrel, 
the audience had that air of expectation that 
circus audiences must have manifested since 
the time of the Romans and the Greeks. 

In the reserved seats sat a few tourists, some 
beautifully dressed in plus-fours, that costume 
tailors have designed as in derision of human- 
ity. The well-known smell of tan, of horses' 
urine and of orange peel, with all the various 
scents, human and those compounded by per- 
fumers, that every audience in the world 
throws off, luckily unknown to itself, hung in 
the air, in spite of all the efforts of smartly- 
dressed attendants, who wielded sprinklers 
with disinfectants. 

Gone were the days when everything was 
dingy, the coats of horses staring, the per- 
formers' dresses dirty or ill-washed. All was 
as spick and span as in a West-End theatre. 
Smart girls in velvet coats of Georgian cut, 
flowered waistcoats, knee-breeches and silk 
stockings, high-heeled shoes, leaving a train of 
scent in passing, sold programmes and showed 
people to their seats, with an air fit for any 

12 



WRIT IN SAND 

court, or at least such courts as those o£ Monaco 
and Gerolstein. The seats, the boxes and the 
ring itself were models of neatness and of 
cleanliness, and that^ although the circus had 
been upon the road for months, travelling in 
Asia Minor and in Turkey, and only meant to 
spend three days where they had pitched their 
tents, and take the road again. 

Into the arena bounded a Hungarian horse 
"en liberte," dark chestnut, with white stock- 
ings and a blaze down its face that made it 
"drink in white/' as the Brazilians say. 

Coursing round the ring, it seemed to cover 
miles, although the whole circumference was 
but a hundred feet. At a sign from the ring- 
master, who, dressed in evening clothes, his 
chambriere with the lash lying on the ground, 
the fiery courser of the desert (see the hand- 
bills) stopped and reversed its course. Then, 
rising on its hind legs, it fought the air be- 
fore the whirling lash that never touched it, 
and following its trainer, to the opening in the 
barrier, bounded back to its stables, passing 
through the ranks of the attendants, in their 
green uniforms, who clapped it on the quarters 
as it passed. 

13 



WRIT IN SAND 

Men and girls rode, springing from the 
ground on to their horses' backs as agilely as 
gauchos. They faced the tail^ balanced them- 
selves on one another's shoulders, straddled 
their horses' necks, and passed beneath their 
bellies coming up on the other side, vaulted 
over the hind quarters, were dragged round 
the arena holding to the tail, whilst all the 
time the docile animals galloped like clock- 
work, as if they knew their riders' limbs were 
in their care, and that as much depended on 
them as on the men and women in their 
partnership. 

A Caucasian horseman galloped into the 
ring. About the middle height, handsome and 
as "wonderly deliver" as was the Knight of 
the Ca.nterbury Tales, the Caucasian dress 
suited him to perfection. The long green, fur- 
trimmed coat, set with its silver cartridge cases 
on the breast, clung to a waist as slender as a 
girl's, the red, soft, heelless riding boots, that 
eastern horsemen all affect, were home into the 
stirrups, that with their short leathers did not 
allow the feet to come below the belly, and 
gave the rider the appearance of standing up- 
right on his horse, in the big peaked Cossack 



WRIT IN SAND 

saddle with its pads, like footballs, that sup- 
port the thighs. You saw at once that he was a 
Gigit, trained to the tricks of the best school 
of Gigitofka, in Vladikafkas, or some other 
mountain town in the recesses of the frosty 
Caucasus. His Persian lambswool cap, set oflF 
his bold and sun-browned features, leaving 
a few tight curls below it, on his fore- 
head. His light and cutting snaffle bridle, with 
its thin red reins, he held high, in his left 
hand, to give a better purchase on the palate, 
for the Caucasian horsemen use no curb. 
Holding one hand above his head, his nagaika 
dangling from his forefinger, he rushed into 
the arena checking his Anglo-Arab in the 
centre of the ring, where it stood, turned to 
stone, for half a second, before he wheeled it 
once again into full speed. Rising in his short 
stirrups he stood erect upon the saddle, and 
then letting himself fall trailed round the 
ring with his head just brushing on the sand. 
Agile as a cat, he swung himself again into 
his seat, threw down a handkerchief, retrieved 
it from the saddle, with a "back pick-up," and 
riding gently round the ring, amid thunders 
of applause, saluted gravely with his hand 

15 



WRIT IN SAND 

touching his lambswool cap. 

The women looked at him, as if he were 
a cake in a confectioners, devouring him in 
anticipation with their eyes. Some said he was 
a prince in his own country, which may have 
been the case, for certainly he looked' a prince 
upon his horse. Well did Cervantes say that 
riding makes some men appear like grooms, 
others like princes. 

Next appeared a troupe of Chinese acrobats j 
modern Chinese without their pigtails, who 
had travelled the world over and spoke every 
language^ and yet the instant that they set 
saucers spinning on a long slender cane, or 
piled a line of rods on one another, striking 
away the lowest of the pile and deftly catch- 
ing the topmost rod upon one finger-point, 
became as Oriental and inscrutable as if they 
had never left their native country for an hour. 
Even in the circus ring they seemed to repre- 
sent a culture that had existed centuries be- 
fore Europe had emerged from barbarism. 

More graceful if less powerful than their 
Western brethren, who with their great 
muscles looked a little crude beside them, they 
seemed as if their feats were an hieratic ritual 

i6 



WRIT IN SAND 

from an older world, rather than circus tricks. 
On her bay thoroughbred, with patterns 
traced upon its quarters with dandy brush 
and water, his coat so bright and shining that 
a man could shave by it, the lady of the Haute 
Ecole rode gracefully into the ring. Seated 
in her white buckskin saddle, she held her 
reins so lightly that they scarcely seemed to 
move, but with a grip as strong as steel. The 
smartly fitting habit showed her well-cut 
patent-leather boot, set off with a bright spur. 
Holding her long Haute Ecole whip in her 
right hand, she touched her horse upon the 
shoulder gently^ putting him through all the 
airs of the manege, the Spanish Walk, the 
Passage, Volte and Semivolte, making him 
shift his croup, change feet with his hind 
legs, rear, plunge, and finally kneel down, 
whilst she leaned back in the saddle easily, 
smiling her thanks to the delighted audience. 
The ring-master, advancing, held her horse as 
she dismounted at a bound, and bowing to the 
audience, retired, executing two or three of 
those little skips without which no feminine 
performer in a circus ever leaves the ring. 
Demos must have his jesters just as in older 

17 



WRIT IN SAND 

ages emperors and kings kept private fools at 
courts. In this age of mass production the 
clowns who have replaced, or perhaps merely 
succeeded, the jesters of an older world, for 
nothing changes in man's mental atmosphere, 
tumbled by platoons into the ring. Their antics, 
quips, quiddities, and cranks fell rather flat on 
a French public, too civilised and not attuned 
to "le gros rire" that so delights a British 
audience. Perhaps the national lack of bon- 
homie accounts for it to some extent, but cer- 
tainly jokes that set audiences in other countries 
hilarious with delight^ were received rather 
coldly, much in the way one listens to the club 
bore with his well-worn and pointless plati- 
tudes. 

One turn and only one the clowns apparently 
held in reserve for all eventualities fairly 
brought down the house, and dissipated the 
air of cold reserve and condescension that their 
first eflForts had not availed to thaw. 

Dressed as a comic Spanish bull-fighter, 
mimicking the airs of a Matamoros that bull- 
fighters affect, hollowing his back and strutting, 
whilst he held his wooden sword in the ap- 
proved position, over the red cloak doubled on 

i8 



WRIT IN SAND 

his left army a tall thin clown advanced into the 
ring. Stopping before a pretty girl, perhaps 
placed there by the ring-master in the same way 
that company promoters get a mine "salted" 
before they give the public the privilege' of 
purchasing their shares, he laid his hand upon 
his heart, made a mock heroic speech, and with 
the appropriate gesture flung his "montera" on 
the! ground. Then from the entrance rushed in 
a great dog, equipped with horns, and hunted 
him after a few ineffectual passes, all round the 
ring. Dropping his wooden sword and all his 
airs of a Torero, the clown rushed about in 
unavailing efforts to escape the onslaughts of 
the "bull." At last he fairly fled before his 
adversary^ who seized him by the collar of his 
jacket, and was borne out struggling, behind 
the scenes. Then for the first time the audience 
gave itself up to the magnetism that once 
started surely affects a crowd, and laughed till 
tears ran down the rough faces of the peasants 
from the' villages and made respectable and 
well-dressed bourgeois shake their fat sides 
with laughter, and wipe their glasses as they 
leaned back in their seats, vanquished by that 
one touch of folly that makes the whole world 

19 



WRIT IN SAND 

kin. No circus is complete nowadays without 
its "drug store" cowboys to spin a rope and 
ride a horse trained to plunge three or four 
times, without putting up its backy that the 
audience takes to be a buckjumper. They may 
or may not have been real cowpunchers, once 
upon a time, but generally come from some 
western cow-town, where they have learned to 
lasso in the local stockyards and corrals. They 
wore silk shirts, wristlets of patent leather, and 
round their necks gaudy silk handkerchiefs, 
artistically knotted, that fell upon their 
shoulders in two points, forming what is called 
a golilla by the Mexicans^ though the word, 
no doubt brought over by the Conquistadores, 
really means a ruff. Their loose rather low 
riding bootSy slashed in the front with red 
^nd yellow leather, were stuffed into their 
trousers, cut tightly, such as the Mexicans 
affect. Each of them carried a well-coiled 
lasso in his hands. With wonderful dexterity, 
they spun their lassos, forming the loop so 
quickly it seemed a living thing that grew be- 
neath their hands. Gradually it circled up and 
down, rising and falling round the body of the 
lassoer, who jumped through the loop, threw 

20 



WRIT IN SAND 

a back somersault, lay down and rose again, till 
finally the fifty feet of the long heavy rope, in 
a vast ring, was whirling in the air. The other 
youth spun a rope in each hand, keeping a short 
cord spinning in his teeth. He cracked a 
stockwhip, cutting a piece of paper from his 
companion's hands, at ten or twelve feet off, 
a feat that would have cost a finger- joint to 
the man who held the piece of paper, had the 
lash fallen upon it. 

Then a man stood against a shutter, with his 
arms extended^ and the two youths outlined his 
figure on the boards with butchers' knives, 
thrown with such force they quivered in the 
wood. 

Nothing appeared to interest the audience so 
much, for it was something anyone could 
understand, with the additional element of 
danger to another's life, so dear to those who 
pass their own removed from any risk. For 
the first time, the faces of the youths took on a 
grave expression, and as they drew the knives 
out of the shutter, one whispered something to 
the other, who, glancing for a moment over his 
shoulder, smiled and spat upon the ground. 
Then came the turn that showed the difference 

2X 



WRIT IN SAND 

between circus tricksy however dexterous, and 
roping on a ranch. In the one case a man de- 
pends upon himself, and as a juggler by con- 
tinual practice performs feats that appear in- 
credible, so does the circus lasso expert make a 
rope seem almost living in his deft hands. Upon 
a ranch, or even in a circus, to rope animals is 
quite another matter, for it is impossible to 
train a horse into co-operation with the man 
who wields the rope. All that can be done by 
the best trainer in the world is to ensure that 
the horse gallops evenly and does not flinch 
when the man makes his cast. The knife throw- 
ing over, and the trained buckjumper duly 
ridden, a man in chaparreras, a word the cow- 
punchers have changed to "chaps," wearing a 
ten-gallon hat, and all the rest of the indumen- 
taria of his calling, rode into the ring. He put 
his horse into a slow canter, bearing a little on 
the bit to make him raise his forehand, whilst 
the roper, watching his opportunity, stood by 
to throw and catch the horse by the front feet. 
He dwelt a little long upon his aim, perhaps 
through over-care, and as he threWy his cast 
was just a fraction of a second late, and 
struck the horse's legs as they touched ground, 

22 



WRIT IN SAND 

instead of circling them when in the air. The 
rope came back into his hand, like a snake re- 
coils upon itself if it has missed its spring — a 
most annoying thing to happen to a man who 
knows that he knows how to rope, but that occa- 
sionally occurs to the best cattlemen. 

His companion muttered something to him 
that made him frown, and gathering up his 
lasso after a sign to the man upon the 
horse, he poised himself again to throw his 
rope. 

This time he tried to do the feat a little dif- 
ferently. Instead of aiming at the forelegs, 
when in the air, he threw the loop in front of 
them, intending that the horse should step into 
the noose, and with a deft twist of his wrist to 
pull it up upon the legs. Again he was a trifle 
soon, and only caught one foot, an ugly throw 
that pulls the limb out in an ungainly posi- 
tion, and in the case of a wild animal, may 
cause an accident. 

The audience not knowing anything about 
such matters cheered vociferously. Honour 
was saved, and the two youths retired, drag- 
ging their legs a little, with the gait, real or 
assumed, of men who pass their lives trailing 

23 



WRIT IN SAND 

great spurs upon their feet. 

No one can tell why the European who 
generally acts as a mahout to a trained elephant 
should always be got up as a French explorer 
in an old-fashioned book of travels, in spot- 
less white, with a sun helmet on his head. Yet 
so it iSj and as- the elephant is a discerning ani- 
mal, it may be that he would not perform if 
his mahout adopted any other costume. Ele- 
phants have performed in circuses ever since 
the times of ancient Rome, when they walked 
upon the tight rope, danced, fought in the 
arena, and perhaps now and then knelt on 
a Christian, when Nero was in search of 
novelty. • 

Educated, or rather civilised spectators — the 
two states are not identical — must always look 
with compassion on a performing elephant. 
Certainly he is not overworked, but somehow 
he strikes one as though he would be more in 
his own element piling great logs into position 
in a teak forest in Burmah, or helping to make 
roads in Southern India. 

To see the monster, with his intelligence, and 
his docility, so careful not to hurt any of the 
pygmies, fussing about him, is a sad sight, and 

24 



WRIT IN SAND 

sympathy goes out to the elephant. When the 
mahout orders him to lie down, it is as if the 
dignity of man, a dignity^ if he is worthy of 
it, that he should share with all the animals, 
is being outraged. Standing on a tub, it is as 
if a valued friend was put into the pillory 
for fools to gape at. When the mahoat swings 
himself upon his head by one of his tremen- 
dous ears, and strikes an attitude as if he were 
defying the stage thunder, it shows at once that 
there must be some kind of partnership be- 
tween the' man and the huge animal. 

But when the trainer makes him stand up, 
balancing himself on his forelegs, it is a sight 
as sorry as it would be to see a learned judge, 
duly bewigged and robed,, after delivering his 
judgment in an important case, turn round and 
elevate his worshipful posterior in the air for 
the inspection of the people seated in the court. 
He waddled off, with his mahout cracking a 
whip, to stand and muse perhaps in his own 
quarters on the strange ways of men, or to be 
wrapped in the contemplation of his travels 
from the time when, as a calf, he first set out, 
following his mother, to be a wanderer upon 
the road. The pity of it is that he cannot write 

25 



WRIT IN SAND 

memoirs, for if he could, how many things he 
might be able to impart about ourselves^ that 
have escaped our eyes! 

The cruel spectacle over, cruel, that is, to 
those who feel that elephants were not in- 
tended to be clowns, for without doubt his 
trainer loved him as the apple of his eye, 
addressing him in private life as "mon vieux," 
"old fellow," or "viejito," according to his 
nationality^ and would have braved the flames 
to save him had the circus taken fire, four bay 
horses trotted into the ring. 

Standing in the centre of the arena, much in 
the way a hostess in an embassy stands to re- 
ceive her guests, the ring-mastery in immacu- 
late dress-clothes, stood to receive them on 
their entry. They bowed their heads, pawed 
gently with their near forefeet^ and waited 
his commands. All were in high condition, with 
their coats shining, as bright as ahorse-chestnut, 
when in the autumn it falls and bursts its 
covering on the green moss beneath the trees j 
their eyes were bright, their manes and tails 
well combed and dandy-brushed, their feet 
polished like new cricket-balls, and all were so 
alike that the best ranchman accustomed to 

26 



WRIT IN SAND 

pick out a single horse from amongst hundreds 
running in a corral might have been puzzled 
to say which, in the language of his craft, was 
which, and which the other of them. 

At a sign from the ring-master, they ranged 
themselves like soldiers, and cantered round 
the ring, and as they passed the opening to the 
stables, four greys joined them, and then four 
chestnuts, and four blacks. All were as well 
matched and as well turned out as the first 
four, and as they galloped they went so evenly 
and were in such condition that you might have 
counted money on their backs without a single 
piece of it falling to the ground. They wheeled 
and stopped, changed front, and strung out into 
a long line, put their feet on the barrier, and 
came back again into their formation, like well- 
regulated clockwork. All seemed to take a 
pride in their own beauty, and a pleasure in 
their work, and now and then in passing, nipped 
at each other playfully, or threw up their heels 
as they fell into line. 

Taking their trainer as a pivot, at a walk 
they formed a cartwheel and revolved slowly, 
the various colours serving as the spokes. 

Lastly the trainer raised his chambriere and 
27 



WRIT IN SAND 

whirling it about before their noses, they rose 
on their hind legs, fighting the air with 
their forefeet, so close to him that he seemed 
to disappear, lost in the thicket of their flowing 
manes and tails, with their feet flashing round 
his head. 

He lowered his whip, and forming fours 
again, they trotted off, each four waiting de- 
corously till it received the signal to advance 
towards the opening. Then the attendants 
raked the ring where the horses' feet had 
churned it up, till it looked like a little sand- 
hill in the desert, after a troup of camels has 
passed over it. As one of them unhooked the 
rope-ladder that dangled from the roof, all 
heads were turned towards a little platform at 
the end of the tight wire that stretched high 
above the ring. Balancing poles were fastened 
to it, and a white wooden chair. From the back 
there appeared three figures wrapped in great- 
coats, whom hardly anyone had seen enter, as 
everyone had his eyes fixed upon the wire. 
"The Perestrello Family, the greatest wire- 
walkers the world has ever seen, renowned for 
their amazing feats, that have called forth the 
admiration of all beholders in both hemis- 

28 



WRIT IN SAND 

pheres," so said the programme, now advanced, 
shedding their wrappers, to where the ladder 
hung. 

A hum of admiration greeted them when 
they stood ready to perform, for Latin audi- 
ences have never lost their love of beauty in 
the human form, that has come down to them 
from their ancestors in Rome^ who in their 
turn received it from the Greeks. 

Just for an instant the trio remained motion- 
less, feeling the pride instinctively of their 
appearance, just as a fine horse appears to feel 
and to rejoice in his condition, and as uncon- 
sciously. With his arms thrown round his chil- 
dren's waists the father looked at them with 
that air of love and of possession that a fond 
father feels in something that he has given life 
to. In this case not only had he given life, but 
doubly created, by his care in training up to 
physical perfection those copies of himself. 

Not more than five-and-forty years of age, 
and about five-feet-eight in height, the ideal 
stature for a perfect athlete of the ring, his 
crisp brown hair curled low upon his forehead, 
as the Greeks have depicted in their statues of 
Olympian victors. His muscles stood out on 

29 



WRIT IN SAND 

his arms, but not so much as to amount to a 
deformity, as is so often seen in athletes who 
have sacrificed everything to strength but have 
forgotten symmetry. His necky round, not too 
short, but strongly made, was set so well upon 
his trunk that it left hardly any hollow beneath 
the clavicle, and the whole man gave the ap- 
pearance of great strength joined to activity. 

His children seeming about nineteen and 
twenty were not unworthy of their progenitor, 
and looked like copies of their father, not 
drawn to scale, but executed by some artist who 
had seen at a glance all really essential to the 
picture. 

The band that had blared out incessantly, 
discoursing tangos, jazz and patriotic tunes^ 
the chief performer a stout negro, who on his 
terrific instrument, that may be best described 
as a mudhorn, from which no one but a mem- 
ber of his race seems able to extract anything 
but a metabolic rumbling, now ceased its fury. 

A gentleman dressed in a morning coat, 
striped trousers, with white spats upon his 
patent-leather shoes, holding his tall hat in his 
left hand, now begged the audience to refrain 
from their applause during the Perestrellos' 

30 



WRIT IN SAND 

act, for he' explained the slightest slip upon the 
wire would of necessity be f ataly for they per- 
formed without a net. 

Nothing could possibly have been more 
pleasing to the audience, who in the way of 
audiences all the world over, hoped inwardly 
that it would be their luck to witness one of 
those accidents that it reads of in the Press, 
with so much gusto. 

The girl, putting her foot into a loop, was 
run up lightly to the platform at one end of 
the wire, holding with one hand to the rope and 
with the other blowing kisses to the audience, 
as she swung through the air. 

Bounding upon the platform with a skip or 
two, she grasped the chain supporting it and 
looked down upon the upturned faces, confi- 
dent, youthful, and as unconscious as is a but- 
terfly when it alights upon a flower. Her 
brother followed her, running up the ladder 
as easily as if he had been walking up a stair, 
his feet finding the rungs almost instinctively, 
as surely as in Colombia a red howling monkey 
passes from tree to tree. The father followed 
his two children, and then the girl, seizing her 
long white balancing pole, tripped across the 

31 



WRIT IN SAND 

wire with so much confidence that one forgot 
to be afraid. She turned and tripped back to 
the middle of the wire. Her brother joined 
her, and they passed one another by a miracle 
of equilibrium. The father, lightly as his chil- 
dren, ran to the centre of the ring, pretended 
to make a false step and fally sat down upon 
the wire, rose again upon one foot, executing 
all his feats so easily and with such grace that 
the whole tent rang with applause. 

Balancing a wooden chair upon the wire, the 
elder Perestrello seated himself upon it, look- 
ing as secure as if he had been seated in a well- 
padded armchair in the window of a club. His 
son climbed on his shoulders, sat with his legs 
round his father's neck, drew out a cigarette 
from his waistband, lighted it and smoked a 
puff or two, sending the smoke out in a cloud 
from both his nostrils, and then tossed the 
stump negligently into the ring. Most people 
would have thought that they had done 
enough, and put their lives in peril sufficiently 
to pleale even the most avid thrillmonger. 
With infinite precaution, placing her feet as 
carefully as a steeple- jack picks his way up a 
tall chimney on a windy afternoon, the girl 

32 



WRIT IN SAND 

climbed like a fly upon a window-pane^ so little 
did her feet appear to move^ upon the chair, 
and from the back of it, on to her brother's 
shoulders, where she stood upright, waving a 
little flag. The audience held their breath, as 
if it were afraid to add any additional vibration 
to the air. Rough fishermen and peasants held 
their hands before their eyes, women caught 
tightly at the arms of those who sat beside 
themj the well-fed bourgeoisie were frozen in 
their chairs, and even those who never took 
their gaze off the performers had a strained 
look, such as you see come over sailors' faces 
after a close call. At last the Perestrello Family 
slid down the ladders to the ground. They did 
not skip in answer to the applause, but bowed 
and stood for a moment, the father's arms 
about the children's necks as if he recognised, 
that once more they were safe. 

With a wild cry a troupe of Arab tumblers 
bounded in for the last turn. The Chinese had 
presented types of an old civilisation, long an- 
terior to ours^ the Perestrello Family, the poetry 
of the circus, but the wild-looking Arabs had a 
charm peculiarly their own. Probably they 
came from Si Hamed O'Musa in the Sus, that 

33 



WRIT IN SAND 

ancient Hollywood of Arab acrobatism that 
furnishes troupes of Arab tumblers to every 
circus in the world. Half Arab and half Ber- 
ber, nothing can ever really civilise them, and 
though so many of them have performed in 
London, Paris, New York and Berlin, and 
speak French, German, English or what not, 
with perfect fluency^ sometimes even marrying 
European wives, there are but few of them who 
on their holidays do not go back to the Sus, 
cast oflF their European clothes, and enjoy a sun 
bath of barbarism. 

So lithe and active were the younger mem- 
bers of the troupe, so wild and flowing their 
great mops of hair, that it was difficult to tell 
which of the whirling figures, bounding and 
turning catherine-wheels and somersaults upon 
the sand, was a boy or a girl, or if there was an 
intermediate india-rubber sex, born in the Sus^ 
to tumble through the world. 

The elder rnen had the grave look that years 
advancing give to all Arabs, when they begin to 
think of Allah and interlard their speech with 
pious phrases. This does not take away the 
racial characteristic of being able to pass out of 
repose into the wildest ecstasies of fury. The 

34 



WRIT IN SAND 

grave and handsome elder members of the 
troupe, who had stood quietly whilst the boys 
and girls performed, occasionally encouraging 
them with a shrill cry, harsh as a seagull's, sud- 
denly became animated. 

Bounding across the ring, leaping and somer- 
saulting so quickly that the eye had as much 
difficulty in making out their limbs as if they 
had been spokes of some great swift revolving 
wheel, they fairly outdid all the younger mem- 
bers of the troupe. Such leaps and such contor- 
tions, such quickness on the feet, such self- 
abandonment, only could be seen from those 
who in the zowia of Si Hamed pay homage to 
the saint of acrobats. With a loud cry they left 
the arena, some of them shaking out the sand 
from their long hair. 

The show was over, and the audience filed 
out, just before midnight, as orderly and with 
as great decorum as if they had been coming 
out of church. Almost before the last of them 
had left the circus, workmen began to pull 
down everything. The dome of canvas that 
had appeared so permanent and as if designed 
to last a century, fluttered down like a gigantic 
moth, and men began to fold it, almost before 

35 



WRIT IN SAND 

it had ceased fluttering. 

Men who but half an hour before had 
been models of grace and of activity, now 
moved about in heavy greatcoats, smoking 
cigarettes. Women, their hair untidy and their 
faces hardly streaked with the grease-paint of 
their make-up, flitted from caravan to caravan, 
or stood chattering in groups. By daybreak all 
w^s ready for the road. Nothing remained on 
the bare space of ground, upon the outskirts of 
the town, of all that microcosm of human life, 
its dangers, beauties, disillusions^ loves, 
hatreds, and jealousies. Nothing was left to 
mark the passage of the great town of canvas 
that had arisen in a nighty fallen in an hour and 
passed away, like life — nothing, except a ring 
upon the sand. 



36 



TSCHIFFELY'S RIDE 



tschiffely's ride 



TscHiFFELY*, Mancha and Gato. The three 
names are as indivisible as the three Persons of 
the Trinity. 

They will go down to history in the Argen- 
tine with far more certainty than those of 
many worthy politicians, gold-laced generals, 
diplomats, and others who have strutted their 
brief hour upon the stage of the republic. 

TschiflFely in his various letters to the Press 
during his three years' journey from Buenos 
Aires to New 'York, reveals his sympathetic 
personality. 

Writing from Washington, on April 26th, 
19285 to "La Asociacion Militar de Retirados 
del Ejercitoy Armada," Buenos Aires, he signs, 
"Tschiffely, Mancha y Gato." On other occa- 
sions he says, "remembrances and neighs, from 
the horses." 

Tschiff elyy a Swiss long settled in the Argen- 
tine, a famous horseman, is a man of iron reso- 
lution and infinite resource, as his great feat, 
perhaps the greatest that man and horses have 

*I did not know Tschiffely when I wrote this sketch, taking my 
information from Argentine papers and magazines. 

39 



tschiffely's ride 

performed in all the history of the worlds is 
there to show. 

As to the horsesj. their deeds speak better for 
them than any words. 

For the last fifty years, it has been the am- 
bition of most stock-breeders in the Argentine 
to "improve" the native breed of horse, and 
above all to add a cubit to his stature by taking 
thought. 

They took the thought, and certainly added 
a cubit (read "hand") to the native horses' 
height. Nature, however, had her eye upon 
their work. By crossing with the' thorough- 
bred, the Arab, the Pecheron, the Cleveland 
Bay and other strains, they bred a taller horse, 
faster, and fitter both for polo and parade. But 
strange as it may sound, polo is not the only 
thing for which horses are designed. It soon 
was found that the half-bred (mestizo) horse, 
though larger, faster, and stronger, was a soft 
animal unfit for work with cattle, slow to jump 
off the mark, clumsy in turning. ... At this 
point, I hear my polo players exclaim, "How 
can a polo pony be called clumsy at turning 
round?" True that on a well-levelled polo 
ground, rolled, watered, and treated almost as 

40 



tschiffely's ride 

a lawny he lumbers round quite readily. But 
polo players ride for pleasure, their horses are 
fed and pampered, almost like "Christians." 
I use the word, not in the religious, but the 
Spanish sense. 

All that can happen to their riders is a col- 
lision, a sudden fall or something of the kind. 
Most polo players die in their beds, with 
doctors in attendance^ and with the Sacraments 
of Mother Church, after an old age of drink- 
ing cocktails in the club, talking of lip-straps, 
curbs, martingales,, bog and blood spavins, 
splints and other matters of their mystery. The 
cattleman rides for his daily bread. His horse 
eats grass, and he himself, as did "Sir Perci- 
vell" (in The Rhyme of Sir Thopas)y sleeps in 
his hood (read "poncho") and when on the road 
drinks, if not "water of the well," the coflFee- 
coloured fluid of some "charco" or "arroyo" of 
the plains. The cattle peon plunges into a sea 
of wild-eyed longhorns, or light-footed Here- 
ford, where a false touch upon the reins means 
a wound 3 a fall means death. He rides swing- 
ing his lazo, over the roughest ground, and that 
upon a horse that perhaps has not tasted food 
or water since sunrise, and then^ work over, has 

41 



tschiffely's ride 

to march behind a troop of cattle, and sleep tied 
to a stake, upon the Pampa, in an icy winter's 
night, or in a scorching north wind that shrivels 
up the grass. Gradually it dawned upon cattle- 
men that the half-bred was an inferior animal 
for such work. He was slow to turn, proved a 
poor weight-carrier, was unsafe when galloping 
in rough ground, and a cold night or two, with- 
out his blanket and his corn, made a poor horse 
of him indeed. 

So they turned back to nature, and procured 
some' horses of the old native stock from El 
Cacique Liompichon, an Indian chief in Pata- 
gonia, and started the CrioUo (native) stud 
book, for the native horse. It was found four- 
teen-two or fourteen-three was the best height 
for work, for taller horses, even of pure native 
stock, were not so fit to stand long days, short 
commons and hard work. 

Then they set about to put their theories into 
practice and show the world the wonderful 
endurance of the CrioUo horse. Now it was that 
the famous trio, TschifFely, Mancha and Gato, 
came upon the scene. 

As soon as the "Asociaclon Criadores de Cri- 
oUo," with its stud book, was instituted, long 

42 



tschiffely's ride 

distance rides were undertaken, to show what 
the CrioUo horse could do. Don Abelardo 
Piovano, on his horse, Lunarejo Cardal, 
covered the distance of eight hundred and 
fifty-seven miles in seventeen days, from 
Buenos Aires to Mendoza^ carrying about 
thirteen stone. 

This was no ride round some great stadium, 
with grooms always in attendance with water 
and with corn, rubbers and bandages, and a 
warm stable every night. The route ran over 
open plains, sparsely inhabited^ where the in- 
trepid pair often slept out alone beneath the 
stars, the horse tied to a stake-rope cropping 
the grass, the rider eating such spare provi- 
sions as could be carried in his saddle-bags. 

The feat was good, in all the circumstances, 
but not definitive, for it was carried out on the 
flat plains, in which the horse was born^ with 
little change of climate, and with good grass 
and water all the way, and corn occasionally. 

Howy when or wherefore it came into 
Tschiffely's head to announce his raid from 
Buenos Aires to New York is to me as un- 
known as most of the designs of fate. 

Immediately the local Babbitry gave tongue. 

43 



tschiffely's ride 

Old babblers and young bletherers rushed into 
print to show it was impossible. Just as in 
Salamanca, when the wise reverend fools 
proved mathematically and theologically that 
Columbus was a madman, so did the local 
wiseacres demonstrate Tschiffely was an ass. 
No horses, so they said, bred in the plains, al- 
most at sea-level, could cross the Andes,, still 
less endure the Tropics, or bear the constant 
change of climate and of food upon the road. 
Indians and bandits would attack the rider j 
wild beasts destroy the horses^ their feet 
would give out on the stony mountain roads. 
In fact the project was absurd and would bring 
ridicule upon the country. Tschiffely took no 
notice of thd arm-chair riders and quietly went 
on with his few preparations for the start. 
They were' soon made^ and he proceeded to 
the south, where the most hardy animals are 
bred, to choose the horses that became 
national heroes. He selected two, "Mancha," 
a skewbald, with white legs and face, and 
streaked all over with white stripes, stocky and 
with well-made legs and feet, like those of a 
male muley as hard as steel. His second choice 
was "Gato," a yellow dun, for "gato" is a 

44 



tschiffely's ride 

contraction of the word "gateado" (literally, 
cat-coloured), the favourite colour of the 
Gauchos of the plains, who always used to 
choose that colour for hard work. They have 
a saying, "Gateado, antes muerto que cansado," 
a dun horse dies before he tires. 

Azaray the Spanish naturalist, writing in 
1785 (?), says that the great troops of wild 
horses, known as Baguales, that in his time 
roamed all over the Pampas, from San Luis to 
Patagonia, were nearly all either some shade of 
dun or brown. "Mancha" was fifteen years of 
age, and "Gato" fourteen, and neither of them 
had ever eaten corn or worn a shoe. 

The horses had just finished a journey of 
nine hundred miles, taking a troop of cattle 
from Sarmiento, far below the Welch settle- 
ment of Chibut, to Ayacucho in the province 
of Buenos Aires, in the month of March. 

One road and only one was open to him, 
across the plains to Mendoza, then over the 
Andes and along the coast of Chile and Peru, 
from Ecuador to Colombia and through 
Panama to Nicaragua and on to Mexico. 

Once there, Tschiffely knew, all would be 
easy and the victory assured, for Mexico pre- 

45 



tschiffely's ride 

sented no essential difficulty with its great open 
plains, and with a population that adored the 
horse, almost as much as do the Argentines. 

Tschiffely set out from Buenos Aires in 
April, 1925, riding his Mancha and leading 
Gato with a pack-saddle carrying his food and 
clothes. Hardly had he started than he en- 
countered torrential rains that turned the 
"camps" into a morass. He reached Rosario, 
with his horses fresh, finishing his first "etape." 

The local know-alls found the horses "ex- 
tremely weak and thin." This pleased them- 
without doubt, but Dr. Nicholas L. Duro, the 
veterinary surgeon, saw them with different 
eyes. After examination he pronounced both 
horses "in good condition and able to proceed 
upon their march." In a letter to the local 
press he said: "It is astonishing that animals of 
the appearance of these horses, selected for 
such a journey, and in such disadvantageous 
conditions, in regard to food, for neither of 
them has yet learned to eat corn, not only 
have adapted themselves to the diversity of 
climate (Rosario is hotter far than Patagonia) 
but have improved upon the road." 

The next eighty leagues were chiefly heavy 

46 



tschiffely's ride 

sand, the water brackish (such water generally 
purges horses) and the grasses often poison- 
ous^ so that the utmost care had to be taken 
where the horses fed. They crossed the 
prairies of Santiago del Estero and of Tucu- 
man, and on the twenty-sixth of June arrived 
at the Bolivian frontier at Perico del Carmen, 
in the province of Jujuy, having covered 
twelve hundred miles (400 leagues). 

In Tucuman, the curiosity to see the horses 
and their rider was immense. Somehow or 
other Mancha's fame as a buck-jumper ("tenia 
fama de reservado") had preceded him. The 
officers of the garrison, much against Tschif- 
fely's will, persuaded him to let a soldier, 
known as a rider, mount the horse. He clapped 
the spurs into him ("lo busco"), and then the 
man^ being, in TschiflFely's words, "a dud at the 
business," after three bucks was thrown into 
the dirt ("lo basurio"), before the eyes of the 
whole regiment — ^not bad work for a grass- fed 
horse that had just completed more than a 
thousand miles! 

As far as the Bolivian frontier all had been 
relatively plain sailing for the trio. Although 
the distance traversed had been great, the 

47 



TSCHiFF Ely's ride 

horses had been in climates not too widely 
different from their own. They had not had 
to swim considerable rivers, and grass and 
water had been plentiful. 

In front of them there lay a Via Crucis. 

As they came through the grassy plains, 
camped underneath the stars by the side of 
some slow-flowing "arroyo" of the Pampas, 
Tschiffely, after staking out the horses care- 
fully, would lay down the various pieces of 
the native saddle ("el recao"), heat water for 
his "mate" at a little fire, eat what he had in 
his saddle-bags and sit smoking, drinking a 
"mate" or two, and watching the horses eat. 
When he felt drowsy, he would take a last 
look at the horses, examine carefully the knot 
of the stake-rope, look well to the picket-pin, 
or the bunch of grass if the ground was too 
hard to drive a pin into, and then lie down 
with his face in the direction of the way he had 
to travel at the first streak of dawn. 

Leaning upon his elbow he would listen to 
the mysterious noises of the night, the bark of 
the Vizcachas, the grunting noise of the bur- 
rowing Tuco-tucos, and the shrill neigh of a 
wild stallion gathering up his mares. 

48 



tschiffely's ride 

After having taken off his boots, his knife 
and his revolver ready to his hand, beneath his 
head, he would draw up his poncho to protect 
him from the dew. During the night he would 
rise frequently to make sure the horses were 
all right. Each time he rose he would look up 
and mark the constellations as they moved, the 
Pleiades, Capella and the Southern Cross, with 
an especial glance at the Tail of Orion, with its 
three bright stars, the Gauchos used to call 
"Las Tres Marias." At the false dawn he 
would awake, shivering and drenched with 
dew, revive his fire, drink several "mates," and 
see his horses, half-dozing on their stake-ropes, 
resting a hind leg, and with their coats drip- 
ping and shiny with the dew. Then he would 
saddle up, taking care not to draw the cinch 
too tightly if it was Mancha that he was to 
ride, remembering his fame as a born buck- 
jumper. Putting the pack-saddle on whichever 
of the horses was to serve that day as cargo 
bearer ("el carguero")^ he would take the 
halter of the led horse in his right hand, gather 
up the reins, and mounting lightly, without 
dwelling for an instant on the stirrup, strike 
Into the jog-trot called in the Argentine "el 

49 E 



tschiffely's ride 

trotecito," that eats the miles up with less 
fatigue to rider and horse than any other gait. 

The difficulties lay in front. Probably at 
this point Tschiffely taught his horses to eat 
corn. He had to face the stony Andean roads, 
high altitudes, bitter mountain winds, snow, 
ice, and lack of pasture by the way. All these 
with horses born in the plains of Patagonia, 
accustomed to but little variations of tempera- 
ture and perennial good grass. 

Writing from La Quiaca, on the Bolivian 
frontier^ on July 29th (1925), Tschiffely 
says, "The worst part of the road so far was 
that between Jujuy and La Quiaca." Some- 
times his horses had to pass the night with 
seventeen and eighteen degrees of frost, with- 
out food, in the open tied up to a post, with 
winds that "penetrated to the bones." He says 
the horses were improving day by day, only he 
himself had suffered from a poisoned hand, 
due to a prick from a sharp thorn. His face, 
from the exposure to the sun and wind, was 
like "an English pudding." This reference to 
our national rice (or perhaps tapioca) "pud- 
ding" is scarcely worthy of a horseman of his 
stamp. In spite of all the prophecies that no 

50 



tschiffely's ride 

horse born on the plain could reach La Quiaca, 
"Here we are," he says, "the horses fatter than 
when we set out." His own condition seems to 
have been so bad that everyone in La Quiaca 
advised him to give up. "But," he says, 
"little did they know of the affection that I 
have to my two ^pingos,' the faithful sharers 
of so many weary leagues of solitude." "No, 
sir" (he is writing to Dr. Emilio Solanet, of 
Buenos Aires, the great horse-breeder), "I will 
not give up unless either I or my horses die. 
Good-bye now to the Argentine, regards to all 
who have accompanied me in their thoughts, 
with neighs from Mancha and Gato, and 
their remembrances to all. Yrs. Aime Tschif- 
fely." 

A gallant and tender-hearted letter, that 
showed a man, brought up in the Swiss moun- 
tains, tempered and toughened to the consist- 
ency of jerked beef by sun and wind upon the 
plains, and with a heart of steel. 

September saw him in La Paz, the capital of 
Bolivia, at an altitude of twelve thousand feet. 
His horses still were in the best of spirits, and 
he himself had got well of his poisoned hand, 
in the keen mountain air. The roads had been 

51 



tschiffely's ride 

abominable, snowy at times and always stony 
and precipitous. From Potosi to Curdo the 
mountain pass was fifteen thousand feet in 
height. His guide's mule completely petered 
out, though mountain-bredy accustomed to high 
altitudes, and man and mule had to be put 
aboard the first train^ for they were completely 
"knock-out," as Tschiffely says. His horses 
plodded on, their rider walking occasionally in 
the worst bits of the road. During the journey 
in the mountains he had made generally about 
two-and-twenty miles a day. A mountain mule 
seldom makes more, upon an average. 

The rider had hurt his leg in a fall on the 
road, and was suffering from malaria, the 
horses had been badly bitten by the vampire- 
bats, but otherwise were well. 

La Paz turned out en masse to see the horses 
and their intrepid rider, and the local veterinary 
pronounced both Mancha and El Gateado 
"quite sound in wind and limb." Mancha was 
so fresh that he nearly kicked his bpx to pieces 
when they arrived in Lima and rested for a 
week or two. In three days they had come 
from the region of eternal snows into the 
hottest of the tropics. The trio had been five 

52 



tschiffely's ride 

months on the road, and of the three the rider 
had suffered most in health. The next stage, 
between Lima and Trujillo, was more terrible 
than any of the past. 

To read Tschiflfely's letter from Barranca 
(Peru)y it seems impossible that even such 
valiant animals as Mancha and Gato could 
have survived the hardships of the road. The 
trail ran through the desert of Mata Caballos 
("kill horses"), impossible to pass without a 
guide. No one was willing to risk his life on 
such a quest, for he was almost certain to "die 
in the demand," as goes the Spanish phrase. 
Full eighteen leagues (54 miles) had to be 
covered, in a sandy desert, before water could 
be reached, under a temperature of fifty-two 
degrees Centigrade, or say a hundred and ten 
Fahrenheit. 

Tschiifely saddled up at half-past four and 
reached his water at half-past six at night. His 
description of the "etape" shows him with as 
light a hand upon the pen as on the reins. 

"Sand, sandy and sun, lagoons with myriad 
of gulls, sand, rocks, and still more sand. Not 
a plant to be seen,, no refuge from the sun that 
there is fire. To compare the region with the 

53 



tschiffely's ride 

Hell of Dante would be inexact, for nature 
there is dead 3 the landscape seems unreal. The 
horses' feet sank deep into the sand, a burning 
thirst consumed us. When we arrived at 
Huecho (where there was a well) the horses, 
although tired, were going well. My head was 
like an English ^budin' (this is a variant in 
spelling, not disagreeable to the eye), my face 
all the colours of the rainbow^ with the skin fit 
to burst." 

There he had to stay a little, for his guide 
and the mule he rode were quite "knock-out," 
a favourite phrase of his. As everyone at 
Huecho knew that the next stage was only 
possible at night, and to attempt it by day was 
almost certain failure, there was great diffi- 
culty to get a guide willing to undertsdce the 
task. Besides the risk of wandering from the 
right path, or perishing from heat, there was 
the additional danger, in the next two "etapes" 
of the dry river-courses swelling to broad 
torrents impossible to cross, by the sudden 
melting, up in the Andes, of the snow. This 
entailed the services of someone who knew the 
f ordsy for the unusual heat of the season, extra- 
ordinary even in that hell of burning sand, 

54 



tschiffely's ride 

had filled the watercourses a month before the 
time. 

Not finding anyone in Huecho who would 
affront the perils of the trail, Tschiffely set out 
on a long tramp of seven leagues, on foot, to 
a hacienda, where lived a guide who knew 
the road. He was obliged to go on foot, for 
on the road there was one of those Andean 
swinging-rope bridges that no animal could 
cross. Having found a guide, who in a day 
or two arrived by a long detour that missed 
the bridge^ riding a mule and leading a horse 
that carried bread and sardines, with water in 
four ample flasks. Thirty-two leagues of 
heavy sand, with neither water nor any food for 
man or beast, now lay before him. In seventeen 
hours of "sand and sand and sand" (I quote 
his letter to La Nacion of Buenos Aires, Feb. 
1 6, 1926), almost without a halt, he reached 
a little Indian village called Huarney. The 
guide and his two animals were exhausted, but 
Mancha and El Gateado, when they were un- 
saddledy rolled in the sand and ate voraciously. 
Thirty leagues (90 miles) lay between Huar- 
ney and Casura, another Indian town. When 
he arrived at the Casura river it was in high 

SS 



TSCHIFF Ely's ride 

flood, and he was forced to swim. Riding his 
Gateado and leading Mancha, he plunged into 
the stream. Swept down the current he was 
almost drowned with both his horses. The 
cowardly guide, who after much persuasion 
tried the ford, did nothing to assist him and 
almost by a miracle they all reached the bank. 
That day they travelled twenty hours, with 
only one hour's rest, after the passage of the 
ford. His horses, as he wrote (to ha Nacion)^ 
though tired, were not exhausted,, but the guide 
and his horses were nearly dead. The sandy 
deserts now were passed^ but perils of a dif- 
ferent nature still lay before him on the road. 
Once more he was obliged to plunge into 
the Andes, for no road ran along the coast to 
Panama. So he set off for Quito, having 
already passed by Cuzco, the other Inca 
capital, on his Andean journey from Bolivia 
to Peru. By this time notices of the "Raid" 
began to appear in every city of the Americas. 
The sporting circles of New York and Mexico 
received reports of Tschiffely's journey from 
every wireless station on the way. "Mancha" 
and "Gato" had become household words in 
every newspaper. 



tschiffely's ride 

All unknown to himself, TschifFely was 
entering on the most arduous and dangerous 
portion of his ride. The frost and snows of 
the high Andes, the burning heat of the 
coastal sands between Lima and Trujillo, the 
poisonous pasturage in Jujuy^ were all as no- 
thing to what he soon was called on to endure. 
At least in all the countries he had passed 
through there had been food for man and 
beast. Scanty at times, but still sufficient to 
sustain their strength 3 water, except between 
Lima and Trujillo, had never failed, and 
there had been no danger from wild beasts. 
Once he left Quito, at an altitude of ten thou- 
sand feet, straight from the coast, over the 
roughest mountain roads,> he would be obliged 
to plunge into the forests of some of the hot- 
test tropics of the world. Those forests 
swarming with vampire-bats, with every kind 
of noxious insect, full of dangerous snakes, 
cut by deep streams, the haunt of alligators 
and electric eels, with every shallow the abode 
of stinging rays, that if a horse treads on them, 
inflict a wound that causes agony and does not 
heal for months; peopled by shoals of the 
voracious little fishy the Piranha, that tears 

57 



tschiffely's ride 

to pieces every living thing that has the 
smallest open wound upon it, constituted an 
obstacle difficult and dangerous beyond belief. 
Their recesses sheltered tigers (jaguars) 
powerful enough to kill a horse with a blow 
of their paw and drag his body fifty or a hun- 
dred yards. Moreover, little grass grows 
under the dark trees, and in the rare clearings 
such pasture as there is, is wiry, hard, and 
carries little nourishment. The leaves of a 
certain palm tree, called pindo, are eaten by 
the native animal§, but it was quite un- 
certain whether horses accustomed to the 
sweet grasses of the Patagonian plains 
would eat them or, having eaten, thrive upon 
them. 

To reach Quito from Piura, on the coast, an 
arduous journey lay in front of him, of about 
three hundred miles. If in Peru and Bolivia 
the intrepid trio had been objects of interest 
to all, in Ecuador the enthusiasm reached its 
height. At the first frontier town the author- 
ities and all the "notables,'' civil and military 
alike, turned out to greet "Los fenomenos de 
las Pampas Argentinas." The country people 
rivalled the authorities in the Warmness of 

58 



tschiffely's ride 

their welcome, and their curiosity. 

Mancha and Gato, once the frontier of 
Ecuador was passed, seem to have been almost 
deified. Deification, even if spontaneous by 
the adorers, and involuntary on the part of 
the subjects, has its inconveniences. Tschif- 
fely, with the "pawky" humour that distin- 
guishes both Scots and Swiss alike, writes in a 
letter to ha Nacion that the attention with 
which his horses and himself were treated 
made him lose much time, when he had rather 
have been resting, in answering questions at 
every place at which they stopped. He had to 
tell his adventures to all and sundry for a 
hundred times. 

In fact, his progress, through such parts of 
Ecuador as were inhabited, reminds one of a 
parliamentary candidate on an election tour, 
dragged to and fro by his supporters, always 
obliged to smile and to repeat the self-same 
"boniment." Even the horses suffered, for 
the people gathered round to see them feed, 
and gaze at them with that fixed and appar- 
ently uncomprehending stare natural to the 
Indians of Ecuador and Bolivia. 

The road as far as Alausi, some fifty leagues 

59 



tschiffely's ride 

short of the capital, was only to be described 
as devilish. 

It ran beside the railway line from Guaya- 
quil to Quito and was a series of ups and 
downs after the fashion of a switchback. The 
heat was terrible, the track a "razorback" bor- 
dered on each side by a sea of mud. At night 
the temperature fell below freezing-point, 
and the rain was perpetual. 

The troops of mules that, since the Con- 
quest, had plied upon the road carrying all 
merchandise from the coast to Quito, had made 
a sort of staircase of the track, leaving great 
steps, called "camellones'' locally. Some- 
times the descents were so precipitous and 
slippery in the deep mud that Mancha and 
Gato slid down them seated on their haunches, 
with their forefeet stretched out in front of 
them. This feat the mules born in the country 
all understand and practise and many of the 
older books of travel have woodcuts showing 
them at work. 

To Mancha and Gato this was new, but it 
was wonderful that they at once learned to 
execute the feat as to the manner born. The 
wretched halting-places, called by the ancient 

60 



tschiffely's ride 

"Inca term of tambos," were filthy in the ex- 
treme, malodorous and full of every flying and 
crawling insect that made life miserable. 

Mules and their drivers, pigs, dogs, asses 
and chickens, slept promiscuously in the corrals 
attached to the "tambos." Great care had to 
be exercised that the horses' forage was not 
stolen or that they were not kicked by any of 
the mules. All these inconveniences and the 
state of the road spun out the journey between 
the coast and Quito for two months. 

The horses reached Quito perfectly well 
and pulling at their bits^ but TschiflFely had 
suffered greatly in his health from hardships 
and malaria, bad water and execrable food. 
He had to stop in Quito for six weeks, most 
of the time in hospital. 

The horses, in a hacienda of a Colonel 
Sturdy, fed on the best of pasture, and waxed 
fat, getting into such good condition that when 
Tschiffely, his health restored, mounted them 
to give an exhibition of their quality^ at the 
request of the authorities of Quito, they 
jumped about like colts. Gato went at every- 
thing with a rush, passing through mudholes 
in a plunge or two and crossing rotten bridges 

6i 



tschiffely's ride 

without looking at them. Mancha, upon the 
contrary, if he had to pass a doubtful bridge, 
tried it with his near front foot, looked at it 
carefully and only ventured on it after put- 
ting down his head to bring his ears and eyes 
and nostrils on a level with the planks. 
("Quel destrier, aveva Pingegno a maravig- 
lia.") 

The first part of the journey to the Colom- 
bian frontier, although an eight months' 
drought had dried up all the pastures, was re- 
latively easy, for there actually were roads. 

Through the hot valleys between Pasto and 
Popayan, unhealthy, mostly composed of 
forest, where no doubt tigers abounded, and 
if they camped Tschiffely must have been 
obliged to light a fire and watch his horses all 
the night, ready to stand by their heads and 
quiet them if a tiger's try were wafted omi- 
nously through the woods. From Pasto the 
route lay through Cali and down the Cauca 
valley to Medellin, the capital of the State of 
Antioquia. 

All three of the adventurers suffered ter- 
ribly upon the way. Alternately, sometimes 
on the same day^ they had to climb up into the 

62 



tschiffely's ride 

Andes and endure cold, snow and icy winds, 
and then descend into the steamy valleys, where 
the damp heat rendered it hard to breathe, and 
the perpetual rain rotted the rider's clothes. 
Writing from Bogota on the loth of October, 
1926, after eighteen months upon the road, 
Tschiffely gives an account of all that they 
endured. He reveals also his undaunted spirit 
and his sympathetic attitude to the companions 
of his extraordinary feat. 

Eight months of drought, he saysy had 
burned up everything, "and my poor horses 
used to stand at the pasture gate, waiting for 
me at sunrise, without having eaten anything. 
It would be difficult to express what I felt on 
such occasions, especially when I was saddling 
up at sunrise. The poor animals looked at me 
with the eyes of children, and Mancha, always 
a ^talker' (^charlatan'), neighed, as it were ask- 
ing me for what I could not give him^ perhaps 
for ten or twelve hours," after an arduous 
day. 

When Medellin was reached Tschiffely re- 
ceived confirmation of what he had already 
heard in Lima as to the impossibility of travel- 
ling by land to Panama. 

63 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

The Government of Colombia, through the 
Argentine Legation at Bogota, sent to inform 
Tschiffely that the journey was impossible. 
No roads existed through the virgin forests 
that had never yet been trodden by the foot of 
man. Swamps, lakes and rivers, without 
bridges, swarming with alligators and with 
banks so swampy that it would prove impos- 
sible, even after crossings ever to emerge upon 
hard ground alive, set up a barrier impossible 
to cross. The forests were quite uninhabited, 
even by wild Indians. In fact few portions of 
the globe are more inhospitable or more un- 
known j few more unhealthy. 

TschiflFely went by train and mule-back to 
Bogota, only to receive the same report from 
the Colombian Government. Nothing re- 
mained but to embark the horses as far as 
Panama, but before doing so he obtained a 
statement from the authorities of the district 
of the Choco that borders on the Gulf of 
Darien. In it they said that from personal 
knowledge of the country any journey from 
their district into Panama must of necessity 
result in the death both of the rider and the 
horses. They alleged once more the lack of 

64 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

roadsy the denseness of the virgin woods and 
the fact that they had remained as unknown 
as at the creation of the world. 

During his journey by mule-back to Bogota, 
he left his horses in a fenced pasture ("pot- 
rero") where there was abundant grass. A river 
ran through it, and an Indian boy gave them 
two baths a day, and twice a day they fed on 
sugar-cane, unrefined sugar ("panela"), bran, 
and a grass called "pasto imperial" that has 
great nutritive power. 

Forced to perform the journey from 
Medellin to Panama in a river steamboat, a 
mere step in comparison with the fifteen thou- 
sand miles from Buenos Aires to New York, 
he arrived safely at the Canal, and after fifteen 
days of quarantine was once more ready for 
the road. 

His spirits rose, his horses were in good con- 
dition after their long rest, and he knew the 
country that lay ahead of him would prove 
but child's play after that he had just passed. 
Writing to La Naciony he says: "Once I have 
passed the State of Costa Rica, where I am told 
there are bits of the road that present difficul- 
ties, the rest is easy. 

65 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

^1 hope in eight, or perhaps nine months to 
be safely in New York. 

"For my part I assure you all that I can do, 
I shall do. I have no fear of the results and I 
shall never give up, if it is possible to go for- 
ward, and the same supplies to both the horses 
(^pingos'), I feel sure." 

The trio crossed the Canal on a drawbridge, 
not that they would have been afraid to swim 
ity for TschiflFely says, " ^We' have swum 
rivers far wider than the Canal." 

Just after crossing the Canal, the first acci- 
dent occurred, for up till then neither of the 
horses had hurt itself, or suflFered anything 
particular except cold, hunger, heat and the 
attacks of vampire-bats. 

Riding along a muddy trail, Mancha stepped 
on a piece of half buried rusty wire and cut 
his foreleg deeply, but, luckily, not near the 
tendons. The wound was deep and cost them 
three weeks of delay till it was healed and 
Mancha ready for the road. 

Although he had been told that difficulties 
awaited him upon the road to San Jose de 
Costa Rica, Tschiffely had no idea that they 
would be so great. The trail from Panama to 

66 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

the little mountain town of David ran through 
the forests and was deep in mud. Although 
he took two guides, they lost the track, and 
wandered helplessly in the vast jungles, all 
bound together with lianas, into an almost im- 
penetrable mass. 

To regain the lost trail, they were obliged 
to open what is known as a "picada" with the 
"machetes'' (bush knives) that in those coun- 
tries every horseman carries at his saddle bow. 

Food for the horses there was none except 
the leaves of a scrub oak and a dwarf palm,- 
tree. 

The horses' shoes came off in the thick mud. 
Tschiffely says with pride^ "However, they 
could travel well enough without them." The 
rain never ceased for an instant, so that his 
clothes all became rotten^ even his boots rotted 
off from his feet, and he was obliged to tie the 
soles on to his feet with strips of hide, for, un- 
like the horses, he could not travel without 
shoes. 

Malaria once more attacked him, and all he 
had to fight it off with was the native rum, 
fiery and raw that, when you swallow it, goes 
like a torchlight procession down the throat. 

67 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

When he arrived at San Jose de Costa Rica 
in a torrential rain after a forced march of 
eight leagues^ a deputation waited on him with 
an invitation to a banquet. He was wet to the 
skin, his boots were sandals tied to his feet 
with strips of hide. After he had seen Mancha 
and Gato led off in honour, guests of the Lega- 
tion of the Argentine, his head whirling with 
the champagne that he was forced to drink, he 
staggered to his room in the hotel. A bed with 
sheets, the first h"^ had seen for months, was 
so inviting that, wet through as he wasy with- 
out attempting even to remove his fragmen- 
tary boots, he threw himself upon it, and fell 
asleep. He says he was exhausted, but that the 
horses were as fresh as when they had started 
out from Panama. 

His health obliged him to remain for 
several weeks in Panama. As Nicaragua was 
in a state bordering on anarchy, a prey to the 
contending factions, swarming with bandits 
and disbanded soldiers, and horses were ex- 
tremely scarce, andy of course, contraband of 
war, he was obliged once more to embark his 
horses a little distance from Puntarenas 
(Costa Rica) to La Union in Salvador. 

68 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

The journey through that small republic 
was not difficult, but the heat was so intense 
that it brought out a new attack of the malaria, 
and in San Salvador (the capital of the re- 
public of El Salvador) he was laid up another 
fifteen days. His strength exhausted by the 
hardships of the road and the attacks of fever 
that he suffered from, he doubted for the first 
time since he left Buenos Aires of his ultimate 
success. 

However, when he reached Guatemala City, 
at an altitude of six thousand feet, he soon 
revived in spirits and in health. 

"We" were warmly welcomed by the in- 
habitants and the Government 5 society and the 
learned institutions all joined in honouring 
"us." The phrase shows the man's character, 
as well as a whole volume of his "life and 
miracles." Mancha and Gato, without doubt, 
were flattered by the attention of the "cul- 
tured institutions," and if they could have 
spoken would probably have done as well as or 
better than many orators such institutions en- 
dure and suffer under. 

TschiflFely now felt certain of success. 
Mexico was a land where gentlemen and horse- 

69 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

men ("caballero") were synonymous. The 
country on the whole was not so difficult as 
any through which he had already passed. His 
hopes ran high, and in a week or two he thought 
he would be iii the capital (Mexico). 

But as the Spanish proverb has it^ a hare 
springs up when you are not expecting her. 
("Adonde menos se piensa, salta la lie bre.") 

Not far from the bridge at the frontier 
Gato went lame for the first time since leaving 
Buenos Aires. At Tapachula he could go no 
farther. Luckily there was a military post of 
cavalry. The veterinary surgeon found that 
the smith in Guatemala had driven a nail into 
the foot. He cut it out at once, but the hot 
climate and the perpetual moisture of the 
rainy season inflamed the wound so much that 
TschiflFely passed three or four nightSy so to 
speak, at the bedside of the suflFerer, applying 
fomentations to the foot. Gato was almost 
welly when some "son of a mother who never 
yet said No" let loose overnight a strange 
horse in the stable-yard. Next morning Gato 
had received so terrible a kick on his near fore- 
leg that he could not lie down. The leg swelled 
up enormously and everyone told Tschiffely 

70 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

that the best thing that he could do was to 
shoot Gato and end his misery. 

"It was a rude blow and I was overwhelmed 
with grief, but I would not even entertain the 
idea of losing the good horse, companion of 
^our' perils on the road." 

At once he telegraphed to the Argentine 
Ambassador in the capital, Senor Roberto La- 
bougli, who replied asking him to send the 
horse by train to Mexico, where he would be 
cared for by the best veterinaries. 

These delays made him lose a month, but 
nothing daunted, having procured a guide 
and bought two horses for him, he once more 
started out upon the road. 

Three or four days' journey convinced him 
that he would never reach the capital alone, 
for the road swarmed with bandits and with 
revolutionaries, words that, as he says, in 
Mexico have the same meaning. 

At the next military post the Commandant 
refused to let him pass, saying he could not 
respond for his security if he went on alone. 

Hearing the case, the President of the Re- 
public, General Elias Calles, sent out a troop 
of cavalry to escort TschiflFely on the road. 

71 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

This was a "gesture," as he says, o£ "the 
greatest generosity and sympathy to the 
Argentine Republic never before accorded to 
a mere traveller." The truth was that Mexico 
was all agog to see the "heroes" of the raid. 

At every town and hamlet that he passed 
the inhabitants turned out to greet him, pat- 
ting and making much of Mancha and doing 
all that lay within their power to help them on 
their way. 

Even in the humble ranchos of the Indians 
"they did their best to succour and assist us." 

The rains delayed the journey, and the 
cavalry were not well mounted^ so that when 
they reached Oscara, Mancha alone was not 
exhausted. 

The rivers, too, were swollen with the rains 
and, as there were no bridges, had to be crossed 
swimming — a dangerous operation, as they 
swarmed with alligators. As he advanced 
amidst general rejoicing, encountering a cooler 
climate day by day, for the interior plateau of 
the country ("la meseta de Anahuac") stands 
at an elevation of six thousand feet^ the road 
grew easier. 

At Puebla, the people had arranged a festi- 
72 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

val "to welcome us," but as fate willed it, he 
had at once to take to bed, for several days 
prostrated by malaria. 

When he reached Mexico his entry was a 
triumph, and was telegraphed at once to the 
whole world. 

The streets were packed and as he rode 
along on Mancha, women came out upon the 
balconies and showered flowers upon him. 

"My joy was without limit, and my feelings 
unforgettable, when I saw ^friend Gato' (^el 
amigo Gato') led up quite freshy and as sound 
as when he was a colt," owing to the care he 
had received from the State veterinary, Sefior 
Labougle. During his sojourn in the city he 
received enormous hospitality from all classes 
of society, the President himself visiting the 
horses several times and admiring them. 

On the 27th of November he set his face 
towards the frontier of the United States^ leav- 
ing a host of friends in Mexico, with both his 
horses fresh and bounding under him. All 
through Mexico TschiflFely's journey was a 
triumphal march, for the news of his coming 
had been telegraphed from Mexico to every 
town upon the way. His stages were erratic, 

73 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

for at times more than a hundred horsemen 
turned out to escort him on his way. The 
smallest hamlet hoisted the Argentine flag, 
sometimes made out of coloured paper^ and 
the nine hundred miles to New Laredo, the 
frontier town upon the Rio Grande, was like 
a street during a carnival, that is to say, when 
they passed through a town. I, who have 
ridden the whole distance from San Antonio, 
Texas, to Mexico^ and back again, when all 
the road was perilous from the attacks of the 
apaches near the frontier, and of the bandits, 
nearer Mexico, though I remember every 
village he passed through, can hardly take in 
the changed circumstances. Across the frontier 
the authorities had organized a military 
pageant in honour "of the brave horseman of 
the Argentine and his two faithful friends." 
TschifiFely, mounted on Mancha and holding 
Gato by his side, took the salutey as the troops 
with their bands playing passed before him. 
It must have been the proudest moment of his 
life, and have repaid him for all that he had 
undergone on his fantastic journey of fifteen 
thousand miles. 

Two thousand kilometres still lay between 

74 



tschiffely's ride 

the frontier and his goal, and perils of a sort 
he had not looked for still awaited him. He 
had hoped to reach New York in June, but in- 
vitations, banquets and interviews rained on 
him. If he had not protested, escorts of cavalry 
would have accompanied him all through 
Texas. In San Antonio he was obliged to stay 
for fifteen days^ the guest of the municipality. 
The same thing happened in Austin, Houston, 
Fort Worth and Dallas, and invitations from 
towns far oflF his route flowed in upon him. 
When in Fort Worth a compatriot, Don Gus- 
tavo Mufiiz Barreto, fitted him out with a 
complete Gaucho costume, "poncho,^' and wide 
Turkish trousers, tucked into high patent- 
leather boots, with silver trappings for his 
horse. Public enthusiasm knew no bounds. 
Mancha, on account of his striking colour, was 
the idol of "las bellas Yanquis," who flocked 
to see him every day, patting and petting him. 
They grew so demonstrative in their affection 
that Tschiffely had to keep strict guard over 
Mancha or they would have cut off all his 
mane and tail to keep as souvenirs. 

Mancha, who, as we know, enjoyed "fame as 
a buck jumper" ("tenia fama de reservado'') 

75 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

became so irritable that it was dangerous to go 
near him 5 but Gato, more apathetic, took every- 
thing "con apatia," and was concerned entirely 
with the good things of the stable, which he 
consumed with great enthusiasm. 

Both of them grew as fat as Jeshurun, but 
there is no recorded instance of their ever 
having kicked. 

Once more the local wiseacres shook their 
long ears and solemnly announced that no 
horse in the world could stand more than a day 
or two upon the treated roads. In spite of that, 
Mancha and Gato advanced steadily, doing 
their thirty miles a day, passing by St. Louis, 
Missouri, Indianapolis^ and Washington. 

As they drew nearer to New York the 
danger that they ran from the continuous 
stream of automobiles on the roads was as 
great as on any portion of his adventurous 
road. As he rode ony in constant peril from 
the motor traffic, his mind dwelt always on his 
goal, and on the joy that he would feel when 
once again he and his horses arrived safely in 
Buenos Aires, where, after all their perils and 
hard work, Gato and Mancha could forget for 
ever girths, bits and saddles, and the hard- 

76 



TSCHIFFELY^S RIDE 

ships of the road. His dream is fulfilled, and 
the two faithful companions of his wanderings 
once more are back again in their own country^ 
after having travelled fifteen thousand miles 
during their three years' raid. Happier than 
mankind, they have their Trapalanda upon 
earth, eat the sweet grasses of their native 
plains, drink the softy muddy water of some 
"arroyo," and though they know it not, never 
again "the cruel spur shall make them weary.'' 



ii 



CREEPS " 



"creeps'* 



As he stood in the smoking-room of the Hotel 
Continental in Tangier, dressed in a faded red 
hunting-coat that had turned almost the colour 
of a mulberry through exposure to the weather 
and the fierce sun of Northern Africa, holding 
a velvet cap in one hand, and in the other his 
crop and a pair of weather-stained rein-worn 
dog-skin gloves^ his face almost as weather- 
beaten as his gloves, few would have taken him 
for a great artist and a man of genius. He had 
the air of a second whip to a provincial pack of 
hounds down on his luck and looking for a 
place. His cord riding breeches hardly met 
his cracked and ill-cleaned boots. His spurs 
were rusty^ and had it not been for his hands, 
well-shaped and delicate, his sleek dark head, 
and deep brown, almost chocolate eyes, eyes 
that impelled you to follow them, he might 
have gone straight on the stage, without any 
make-upy to play Tony Lumpkin. 

Although he spoke to no one, it was evident 
that he had seen not only every person in the 
room, but every object in it. For a consider- 
able time he sat, turning over listlessly the 

8l G 



^ ^ CR E E PS ^ ^ 



pages of The Fieldy and drinking several stiff 
whiskies and sodas, that had no effect upon 
him, except to seem to seal his lips more firmly, 
not that it seemed a voluntary act, but some- 
thing born with him, as were his lustrous eyes 
or his sleek head. His slightly bandy legs he 
had acquired through early riding, for he was 
seldom off a horse, holding that Providence 
would have bestowed four legs on man had 
he intended him to go afoot. The man was 
Joseph Crawhall, known to his friends as 
"Creeps" — ^why, no one seemed to know. 

Unknown all his life to the general pub- 
licy and even now only appreciated by his 
fellow artists, he certainly was a man of genius, 
if any painter ever merited the term. Genius, 
I take it, is the power of doing anything in 
such a way that no one else can do it. That (and 
fifty other things) separates it from talent, 
for talent merely does in a superior way what 
other men can do. Thus talent does not excite 
enmity, as is so often the fate of genius, for 
we all dislike that a mere man such as our- 
selves possesses something we can never hope 
to compass, even by years of unremitting toil. 

Those who like myself are quite profane to 
82 



* ^ CRE E P S " 



the pictorial art, holding it as a miracle — ^but 
the mind of man is the greatest of all miracles, 
a miracle of miracles — ^that by some few 
strokes on a flat surface of canvas or of paper, 
a vase looks round and solid, a horse or stag 
is made to gallop, or a familiar face is repro- 
duced, could see that there was something 
wonderful in CrawhalPs art. Something there 
was as I see art — ^but then of course my vision 
may be more limited than I suspect — that 
linked him by pictorial succession to the art 
oi the great draughtsmen of the caves of 
Altamira. 

Crawhall, as they did, left out everything 
not essential, not as some leave out most that 
is essentialy in their search after originality. 
Whether the prehistoric artists studied, as I 
think they must have, for I believe no miracles 
except that cited above, we do not know. Cer- 
tainly Crawhall had been kept hard to learn 
the ribs and trucks of his profession (as Joseph 
Conrad might have said) in his youth^ by his 
father, a book illustrator of repute in New- 
castle-on-Tyne. Thus drawing became like 
thinking to him, and I think just as subcon- 
sciously. It was his speech. His pencil was to 

83 



* ^ CRE E PS ' ' 



him what the tongue is to other men. He talked 
with it, for no sachem of the Iroquois could 
have been more silent in ordinary life. Lavery 
used to call him the Great Silence, and no one 
ever better merited the name. Whether he 
would have produced more if he had drunk 
less is a moot question. After all, great pro- 
duction is not always a sign of merit, though it 
implies, as in the case of Sargent, Luca Gior- 
dano, Tiepolo and others, extraordinary 
vitality of hand and brain. All that "Creeps" 
did produce was perfect of its kind, and cer- 
tainly no one before or after him, except the 
Altamiran artists, have produced anything even 
remotely resembling his work. It may have 
been on that account that he so strongly influ- 
enced the Glasgow school, a group of painters 
whose aims were totally dissimilar to his^ but 
who all admired and recognised his geniu?^. No 
place could have suited him better than the 
Tangier of those days. In it he found exactly 
all he wanted for his art. Of course wherever 
he had lived he would have found congenial 
subjects, for he was not one of those who 
sought for any subject in particular, but 
painted what he saw. If he had been con- 

84 



** CR E E PS' ^ 



demned to live in a house that had no view but 
into a backyard with a great water-butt at one 
end of it, that water-butt would have appeared 
exactly rendered, but somehow differently 
rendered from the way that any other artist 
would ha,ve drawn it. Thus his art had some 
affinity to the art of Japan, before the know- 
ledge of perspective under European rules took 
away so much of its originality. 

His methods were his own and differed 
widely from those of any other painter I have 
known or read about. 

He never held up a pencil between his fore- 
finger and his thumb and seemed to measure 
spaces in the air. Still less did he when he was 
painting walk up towards his canvas and walk 
back againy with the look on his face as of an 
orphaned archangel looking for the door of 
Paradise, and execute the rhythmic dance that 
many painters indulge in, and has always im- 
pressed me as one of their most intriguing 
mysteries. 

I hardly ever saw him draw direct from 
nature. 

When he had to paint a horse, a dog, a goat, 
or any other animal, a branch in which he ex- 

85 



*^ CRE E PS" 



celled all painters of his time (perhaps of all 
time), he would go and look at them for a full 
hour, with a look so intense it seemed to burn 
a hole into their skin. Then perhaps, but 
rarely, he would take a pencil or a piece of 
coloured chalk out of his pocket, and on the 
back of an old envelope set down cabalistic 
signs or dabs of colour^ much like the Indian 
hieroglyphics that I once saw carved on a rock 
in a canon near Montery in Mexico, and as 
indecipherable to the profane. 

Next dayy he might, or he might not, return 
and gaze another hour, and when one thought 
he had forgotten all about the animal, produce 
a painting so life-like, so strangely similar to 
the drawings of the cave-dwellers, and yet so 
tuned to modern vision, that it forced one to 
regard the animal that he had limned just as 
he must have seen it for ever afterwards. A 
sunset he would paint in the same way^ look- 
ing intently at it and drawing a few wavy lines 
that he filled in with a light wash of water 
colour. 

Afterwards, in his studio, he would produce 
a sunset so delicate and imaginative it seemed 
he m.ust have had a hand in the original. 

86 



^ ^ C R E E P S " 



Most artists, even those of the first rank, 
produce their works with drops of blood wrung 
from the soul. "Creeps," I feel sure, suffered 
no pangs of parturition, and I remember once, 
when someone said all art was difficult, he 
answered simply, without a trace of boastful- 
ness, but in the tone of one who states a fact^ 
"No, not at all." 

He never strove after originality, but 
painted as a bird sings, without a thought of 
the effect it makes. That was the reason, pro- 
bably, that all he did was so original. 

No one could have been less like the 
ordinary painter of those days as when I first 
encountered him, looking like a second whip 
down on his luck. 

In his ordinary clothes he had an air as of a 
stud groomy in a moderately good place. Not 
that he affected anything horsy in his dress j 
the horsiness in his appearance came from the 
interior grace. 

He did not stand with his feet wide apart, 
head on one side and eyes screwed up when 
horses passed him upon the road. 

For all the outward signs he gave, he might 
not have observed them, but very likely he 

87 



^* CRE E P S ' ' 



would say next day, "That chestnut that passed 
us in the Soko yesterday had an old bullet 
wound upon its neck. I saw it when the wind 
lifted up its mane." 

That was a long speech for him and very 
probably he would not say another word till 
dinner-time. Still, he had humour of a peculiar 
kind, upon occasions, but so deep-seated and 
dispensed with such economy of speech that it 
was often unperceived, unless the hearer hap- 
pened himself to be a humorist. 

Unluckily for himy and to the regret of all 
his friends, he now and then had a bout of 
drinking and would disappear for a day or 
two, and come back, as it appeared to me, much 
like the celebrated president of the Ten 
Tumbler Club of Cupar Angus in the Scottish 
story, "michtily refreshed," after his pota- 
tions. On one occasion he was missed from his 
accustomed haunts longer than usual with him. 
His friends grew anxious and, led by Bibi 
Carletony Bernardino Frias and others of his 
admirers, they searched the little Tangier of 
those days, but without finding him. Anselmo, 
the old Catalan who kept the New York Hotel 
upon the beach, could give no tidings of him, 

88 



^ ^ CR E E PS " 



although he said, "The horse of Mr. Creeps is 
in the stable, eating his head off him, and his 
effects are in his room." Antonio Sotiri, the 
big Cretan Greek who kept the little cafe at 
the corner of the little Soko, where "Creeps" 
and other commentators were wont to take 
their "eleven hours," when the surn was over 
the foreyard, as say the mariners^ could give 
no news of him. Ansaldo at the Continental 
was as ignorant. As they pursued their search 
on horseback — for in those days in Tangier no 
male white Christian ever went afoot — they 
passed El Rubio, the blind beggar, who sat like 
Bartimseus begging at the Gate. 

That is, he sat there when he had nothing 
else to do, for although blind, he was accus- 
tomed to take back horses to the stables,, gallop- 
ing furiously along the sandy roads, his tat- 
tered brown jellab streaming in the windy his 
blind eyes staring out on vacancy, and his bare 
heels drumming on the horse's sides as he flew 
by shouting out "Balak! " and a stream of oaths 
in every language. Sometimes he led the 
tourist to the English church and sometimes 
to a brothel, for all that came into the Rubio's 
net was fish, if he was paid for it. The searchers 

89 



^ ^ C R E E PS' ^ 



after "Creeps" drew up their horses and ex- 
changed pleasantries more or less indecent with 
the blind man, who knew them instantly by 
their voices, exclaiming, "Ah, Bibi, son of the 
illegitimate, how goes it with you?'' or, "Sefior 
Duque," when he spoke to Bernardino Frias, 
"there is a man with a fine horse from Abda, 
would you like to look at him?" and asked for 
his advice. The Rubio answered with a grin, 
"By AUahy I would try Hueso de Cochino." 

The name, that signifies Pig's Bones, being 
Interpreted, was that of an old Spanish lady 
who entertained, as Shakespeare puts it, ten or 
a dozen gentlewomen who maintained them- 
selves by needlework. 

Hueso de Cochino was, as she said, the 
daughter oi a general, who was obliged to 
follow the industry by which she lived, 
through ill-luck, and the poor exchange of 
Spanish money, but chiefly through the fault 
of the evil governments in Spain that had 
omitted to remunerate her father for his ser- 
vices, so that he had fallen upon bad times. 
"Spain, senor," she would say, "would be an 
Eden if God had granted it a decent govern- 
ment, but if He had, no one would have cared 

90 



^'CR E E PS'^ 



» 



to leave it, even for Paradise. 

Slipping and sliding on the greasy cobble- 
stones, down the chief street and past the 
mosque^ and turning to the left up the street 
that leads to the Zouia of the Sheriflf of Wazan 
and the Hotel Continental, the rescue party 
that had now dwindled down to two, Bibi and 
Frias, passed by an archway just high enough 
to let a man on horseback ride underneath it. 
A filthy lane full of all kinds of refuse, orange 
skins, entrails of chickens, heads of fish, the 
flotsam and the jetsam of a Moorish house- 
hold strewed its pavement, all broken into 
holes, that in wet weather were filled with 
water that the passing animals splashed on foot 
passengers. The refuse in the street mingling 
with the smell of asafoetida, bunches of fresh 
mint, dried herbs and spices^ in the Moorish 
shopSy produced a scent, pungent but still not 
disagreeable to the nostrils that had become 
attuned to it. Leaving their horses with the 
first Moorish boy they passed, with strict in- 
junctions not to let them fight, for both were 
stallionsy and not to tie them up by the bridles 
to the knocker of a door or grating of a window, 
to fall asleep or run away and leave them to 

91 



' ^ C R E E P S ' ^ 



their own devices, the riders beat with the 
handles of their whips upon a door studded 
with nails and with a little reconnoitring 
window in the middle of it. 

The patroness appeared in person and wel- 
comed in the friends whom she at once recog- 
nised for habitual customers. The door led 
through a little passage six or eight feet long, 
known as a Za.guan, into a courtyard with rooms 
all round it, a fountain in the middle, where 
several girls were dancing with one another to 
the music of a piano-organ,, for it was early in 
the evening and no man had hired them. She 
pressed her merchandise upon them, assuring 
them "upon her health," that she kept no dried 
tunny or salt codfish in her establishment, but 
all was fresh and young, wholesome and medi- 
cally certified. 

Filled with an artist's pride in her establish- 
ment she stood, a massive figure in a white 
pique wrapper, green Moorish slippers on her 
bare feet, a faded red carnation stuck behind 
her ear and a wealth of black hair just touched 
with grey, coarse as a horse's taily piled high 
upon her head, with a cheap imitation diamond 
comb surmounting it. 

92 



'^C R E E P S'^ 



She had an air of joviality that made her 
intensely human-looking. At once you saw that 
she was a kindly creature and that her long 
experience in the profession had made her 
tolerant of all the failings of mankind. Born 
in La Linea de la Concepcion, outside Gib- 
raltar, she spoke a little broken English and 
at once told her visitors that "Mr. Creeps was 
in her house, safe, sound and well and at that 
moment sleeping ojff the ^wiski' that he had 
drunk, in the room of a girl from Utrera, 
Relampagos by name." She added that Re- 
lampagos was a good-hearted girl, one who 
did not lavish her earnings upon some third- 
rate bull-fighter, and that she was incapable 
of taking even a centimo out of the purse of 
anyone in Mr. Creeps' state, for she was a good 
Christian who went to Mass on Sundays, and 
upon Saints' days, if she was unoccupied. 

She raised her voice and called out^ "Relam- 
paguitos^ two friends of Mr. Creepsi want to 
speak to you," and from a room above the 
courtyard Relampagos appeared. Not too fat, 
not too thin, as runs the Moorish saying, viva- 
cious as a squirrel, her teeth as white as pearls, 
her eyes darky bright and sparkling, her jet- 

93 



''creeps^' 



black lustrous hair, powdered an inch or more 
above her forehead, to soften oflF the contour 
of the face, she well deserved the name of 
Lightning ("Relampagos") for she was always 
on the move. She, too, "spik litel IngliSj" 
chiefly terms of professional endearment, 
having, as she said, "worked a whole year in 
El Pefion de Gibraltar, amongst the Protes- 
tants." 

"Creeps" would be ready in a moment, s^ 
she said, and was just putting on his shirt that 
she had washed and ironed for him. She 
added, she would be sorry when he went, for 
of all the men that she had known he gave 
least trouble, speaking but little, eating "not 
more than eats a sparrow 5 no, sefior," drinking 
much "wiski," and when not asleep had drawn 
with charcoal, on the walls of her room, 
pictures of horses, cows, goats and animals of 
every kind, and a sketch of her own head, better 
by far than any photograph. 

In a few minutes "Creeps" appeared, quite 
unembarrassed, greeted his friends, said good- 
bye to the lady patroness, and kissed Relam- 
pagos, leaving a mark on her well-powdered 
cheek, like the print made by a gull's foot when 

94 



' ' C R E E P S^ ^ 



it alights upon the sand. 

A few days afterwards, as we walked 
through the "Soko de la fuera," a blind man 
seated on the ground begged, raising one hand 
to heaven as he called upon God's name. 
"Creeps" gave him half a silver dollar, and 
when I said the man had never seen himself 
possessed of so much capital, broke into one of 
his rare smiles, that lit up his whole face, trans- 
figuring it, as if his inner genius struggled to 
come forth, and answered, "I too have been 
blind." 



95 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

The winding road paved roughly with dark 
blocks of stone, like tufa, worn shiny and as 
slippery as ice in a black windless frost, by the 
sledge-runners of the local bullock carts, ran on 
a cliff above the sea. 

Smiling and treacherous as life, it lay a 
sheet of burnished silver, under the westing 
sun. A faint air,, tempered by three thousand 
miles of passage from the Bahamas, played 
withy yet hardly ruffled, its deceitful surface. 

Here and there jagged rocks stuck up, their 
base encircled by a foam like soapsuds, that 
gently swayed when the sea breathed but did 
not move away. 

Eastward, the fantastic shapes of the De- 
serted Isles, the prismatic colouring of the 
rocks, veiled by the sea haze, looked like a 
landscape seen in a mirage, when the sun 
mocks the eye. A homing fishing-boaty its use- 
less sail flapping against the mast, her crew 
bent to their oars like galley slaves, but served 
to show the littleness of man against the sea's 
infinity. 

Columbus in his sojourn in Funchal must 

99 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

have looked out upon it wistfully, half-know- 
ing that it held a secret, that perhaps he was 
destined to disclose. The road ran on, through 
fields of sugar-cane, swaying in the light breeze 
with a faint whispering, as when the advanced 
guard of a flight of locust whirrs through the 
air, or as the Pacific surges kiss the reef of an 
atoll. It ran through straggling villages, and 
past Quintas buried in masses of bright flower- 
ing, tropic and sub-tropic shrubs. Jacarandas 
and Bougainvilleas, Durantas, Crotons, Acaly- 
phasy Poinsettias, Maracujas, Daturas, embow- 
ered the dazzling white houses with their red- 
tiled roofs. 

Rosemary and alecrin gave out their pungent 
perfume and roses trailed from every balcony, 
uncared for, and rejoiced to find themselves 
unmanured, unpruned, not tied to sticks, nor 
crucified with nails against a wall. Oxen toiled 
patiently, dragging the sledgesy that replace 
carts in the island, or resting, chewed the cud, 
looking as grave as judges seated on the bench, 
perhaps arriving at as wise decisions, but for- 
tunately unable to communicate them to man- 
kind. 

Now and then motors passed, their strident 
100 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

horns proclaiming progress, that goddess born 
of hurry and of noise. Along the roads,, silent 
and civil, if a little bovine, trudged endless 
streams of people, for it was Ash Wednesday, 
the day of days at Camara de Lobos, the little 
fishing village that once a year holds the pro- 
cession of its saint. Most of the men, villagers 
from the villages that nestle on the skirts of 
the great hills that form the backbone of the 
island, wore the dark shapeless coats and 
jackets^ the well-washed unstarched shirts, and 
flapping wide-brimmed hats, that since the 
ancient costume fell into disuse have become 
as it were a uniform both in Madeira and the 
Canary Islands. 

When they met friends, they uncovered 
gravely and shook hands, calling each other 
Senhor, for dignity and a high sense of indi- 
vidual value are in the marrow of the race. 
Some of the more advanced displayed the 
livery of universal "progress" and wore brown 
shoes, well-pressed slop suits, soft store hats 
and neckties of bright colours whose ends 
dangled and floated in the breeze. None of 
them wore waistcoats and iheir open coats dis- 
closed the narrow belly-band complete with 

lOI 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

imitation silver clasp, that took its origin in the 
Bowery of New York. 

The women, less the slaves of progress than 
the men, all wore a full dark-coloured petti- 
coaty under a cotton jacket fitting loosely at the 
hips. Their jet-black hair, coarse as a Shetland 
pony's tail, looked blacker still against the fine 
white woollen scarves they wore about their 
heads, letting one end fall down upon their 
backs. 

The only animal that man has never tamed 
is woman^ declares a modern, wise philosopher. 
God grant that he may never do so, for a 
woman really civilised would have to hide her 
shame with neutral-tinted spectacles and chil- 
dren would be brought into the world con- 
cocted in a laboratory. 

Dotted along the road were little taverns 
entitled "Flor de Pichincha," "O salto de Ca- 
vallo," and the likej their legend setting forth 
that Manoel Silva or Domingo Chaves kept 
good wines and groceries, all of the best class, 
"Vendas a dinheiro." In latticed summer- 
houses sat the daughters and the wives of the 
inhabitants, looking like women in a pious 
yoshiwara, for even had their inclination 

102 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

moved them to any indiscretion, nature had 
countered it by features such as made virtue 
hardly a virtue by its facility. 

The crowd grew thicker as from every 
hamlet contingents of the inhabitants swelled 
its ranks. In the whole world there could not 
be a quieter, more well-behaved, or a more 
docile concourse of mankind. No, not if the 
garden on the Tigris had been thickly popu- 
lated before the Fall. All had the look of 
people adequately, but not generously, fed. 
Though the majority had driven oxen all their 
lives, delved in the fields and ploughed indus- 
triously — for every cultivable foot of ground 
was cultivated — ^their hands were not de- 
formed by toily or gnarled and knotty, like the 
hands of labourers in Scotland or Castile. Lost 
in their Hesperidean island they had never 
fought for liberty in the past. Barbary Cor- 
sairs had not descended on their shores to mas- 
sacre the villagers in the name of Allah and 
his prophet, he of the curling hair and teeth 
like hailstones newly fallen upon the sand. Life 
had gone on harmoniously, without revolu- 
tions, or without social turmoil, since the day 
when the storm-tossed English lovers with the 

103 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

Strange names of D'Arpet and Machin came on 
the island unawares to find a haven and a 
grave. 

The road wound on^ till from a high curve 
the little port of Camara de Lobos lay dis- 
closed. Shaped like a cockleshell, defended at 
the mouth by craggy rocks, it broadened out 
towards the beach. On it, the village boats lay, 
just afloat, and scarcely swaying in the surge, 
that set in almost imperceptibly from the calm, 
glassy sea. They lay as thickly, all touching 
one another, as pilchards in a barrel, or the 
canoes in some forgotten river port, in South 
America. 

High-stemmed and brightly painted, they 
were but little battered by the sea. Hardly a 
savour either of tar or pitch perfumed the air, 
and from the taverns by the port no ribald 
songs or curses belched out of a den thick with 
tobacco smoke. Occasionally a fado, tinkled on 
a Portuguese guitar, plaintively pitched in a 
minor key, broke on the ear. So may the sailors 
have passed their leisure hours in Ithaca, when 
once Ulysses was safely off on his adventure to 
the siege of Troy. 

No doubt at times the fishermen must have 
104 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

seen death at a short cable's distance off, for 
all their draughts could not have been miracu- 
lous and they had often toiled all night and 
taken nothing, as did their prototypes on 
Galilee. To-day all recollection of the brief 
fierce storms that spring up, like a harlot's 
anger (or her tears) lashing the sea into a 
foamy fury, was banished from their minds. 
Dressed in their Sunday clothes, they wended 
to the little village church, dedicated naturally 
to St. Peter, the most adventurous of the 
twelve fishermen who left their nets to follow 
a more arduous career. 

Built in the middle of the plazay towards 
which four or five winding streets, paved with 
round cobble-stones converged, it brooded over 
the peaceful little port as a hen broods over 
chickens, at once a mother and the protector of 
all those who seek the shelter of her wings. 

Only Madeira and the Canary Islands 
possess its style of architecture, with the low, 
square tower and body of the church built like 
a convent without an ornament to break the 
fagade. A modest temple, yet adequate for 
the needs of its Arcadian worshippers. The 
roofy high-pitched and barrel-shaped, was 

105 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

painted gaily in light colours, picked out with 
gilding that the march of time had toned down 
and harmonised. The altar, bright with gold, 
had the twisted barley-sugar-looking columns 
that proclaim the art of Churriguera, that 
baroque in excelsis, only to be found in Spain 
and Portugal* 

A votive ship or two in the dark aisle, an 
ostrich egg and a dried crocodile testified to 
the piety of sailors, whoy by the intervention 
of the patron of the church, had emerged safely 
from the perils of the deep. The holy-water 
stoop, set in a dark corner behind the door, 
gave out an ancient fish-like odour, left by the 
horny fingers of the pious fishermen. 

Although unusual in a church, all was so 
much in keeping with the place and its inhabi- 
tants that the strange perfume may have been 
acceptable to the Deity the fishermen adored. 
It was packed full of kneeling women whose 
white shawls gave them an air of nuns. The 
men, as it were^ "stood by," their hats held in 
their brown hands, their eyes fixed on the altar 
with the f ar-oflF look with which they gazed on 
the horizon out upon the sea. 

The church, filled with its seafaring par- 
io6 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

ishioners, seemed a great fishing boat, with St. 
Peter at the helm, keeping her "full and 
by." 

The brief Mass over, when the congrega- 
tion had filed out of the churchy the portly 
priest, still in his vestments, placed himself 
beneath the purple canopy that was to shelter 
him on the long tramp with the procession to- 
wards the Calvary. 

From the dark winding street the bearers of 
the various saints emerged, carrying upon their 
shoulders the images that were to be borne in 
the procession. 

The bearers, chosen from the strongest 
of the younger fishermen, all wore an expres- 
sion on their faces of pious satisfaction and of 
resignation to the task that lay before them. 
They seemed to undertake it in the same spirit 
that they bent to their oars, when the wind 
failed them on the sea. 

In their rough hands they carried poles, sur- 
mounted by ^ half-moon made of iron^ on 
which to rest their burden when the procession 
halted for the bearers to get wind. Silently 
the various companies, devotees of one or 
other of the saints, fell into line. 

107 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

Without confusion, and apparently with no 
directing officers to marshal them, the images 
took their appointed stands. Heading the pro- 
cession, grave and dignified, came the patron 
saint, not the St. Peter who denied his Lord^ 
smote off the ear of the servant of tjie high 
priest, or even as when, as the sarcastic witty 
Apostle to the Gentiles said, he bore a wife 
about with him. His nets all dried and laid 
aside for ever, his martyrdom had cleansed him 
from the weaknesses and follies of the world, 
but, as his counterfeit presentment showed^ had 
left him still as lovable as when, a fisherman in 
Galilee, natural laws had proved superior to 
faith when he essayed to walk upon the lake. 
Behind him, carrying lighted candles that 
hardly flickered in the still air, marched a group 
of women dressed in black. Their faces wore 
a waxy look, and from their clothes came the 
stale scent of "incense that characterises^ in Latin 
countries, the devout women of the church. 
Possibly some of them were accomplishing a 
vow of penitence, but as they all walked bare- 
foot on the stony path, the bystander, even 
though not a fool, could not distinguish those 
who had followed Mary Magdalene from 

io8 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

those who had not gone astray. Twisting and 
writhing like a gigantic snake, the procession 
climbed the mountain path. The saints upon 
the shoulders of the men nodded at one an- 
other like so many china mandarins^ as they 
swam through the air and seemed to float, borne 
by some invisible agency. 

St. Michael, St. Sebastian, St. James, Santa 
Teresa, and a goodly dozen of the celestial 
hierarchy, all newly gilt and painted^ graced 
the occasion and moved the piety of the dense 
crowd of onlookers that thronged the moun- 
tain road. Behind each image of a saint came 
groups of children dressed as angels, bare- 
footed, with their hair streaming down their 
backs, bound at the forehead by a silver fillet. 
Their gauzy wings, their naked little feet, their 
look of pious innocence and the stout hearts 
that all must have possessed to face such a stiff 
climb, barefooted, on such a stony roady in- 
clined one to believe they had escaped from 
heaven for the day, weary of singing in the 
celestial choirs, to join their fellow children 
upon earth and play with them. 

Children and banners, and the canopy shel- 
tering the priesty formed a symphony in purple, 

109 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

for with natural good taste all the procession 
was in the same tone of colour, without a jar- 
ring note. As it passed by^ the onlookers stood 
up, the men uncovered, and now and then an 
ancient, wearing the national two-eared cap of 
the Madeira mountaineers, bent one knee upon 
the ground. All were devout, without the 
orgasm of faith that in the south of Italy turns 
the women to Bacchantes and the men into 
their pagan ancestors, with staring eyes and 
mouths distorted in their ecstasy. 

Still less did they resemble in their be- 
haviour the ribald piety of the Holy Week in 
Seville, where, as the bearers of images, when 
they stop to rest and rub their shoulders, look 
at their burden and after murmuring, "God 
curse the heavy block of wood," cross them- 
selves piously and fall amuttering a Hail 
Mary or a Credo, for their souls' benefit. Up- 
ward and upward climbed the long purple 
serpenty the edges of the path all lined with 
people, silent and well-behaved, experiencing 
inwardly, perhaps, a spiritual consolation, not 
manifest, except to the interior vision, which 
after all is the most satisfying and not subject 
to the deceptions that so often cheat those who 

no 



CAMARA DE LOBOS 

trust only to what falls upon the retina. 

At a turn in the mountain path the last 
purple banner disappeared. Angels and priest, 
the high-borne canopy^ the gaily painted 
saints, the pious women draped in their black, 
the groups of following devout, vanished with- 
out a sound, still climbing upwards towards the 
Calvary. A passing shower obscured the 
mountains, shrouding them in a veil, such as 
the dew spreads on a spider's web. On the 
horizon a sundog just caught the sails of a 
home-bound fishing-boat, glorifying them for 
a brief moment, turning them into cloth of 
goldy before they disappeared. Their pious 
duty over, the procession turned towards the 
town, its ranks unbroken, and the companies 
of fledgling angels plodding along their Via 
Crucis wearily. The darkness deepened and 
the faint slurring of the bare feet upon the 
stones sounded as if a regiment of ghosts was 
passing. 



II T 



FIN DE RACE 



FIN DE RACE 

Nature and fortune had combined to shower 
most of the gifts in their possession on Bernar- 
dino de Velasco, Duke of Frias, Hereditary 
Grand Constable of Castile, Count of 
Oropesa, of Haro and a Grandee of Spain. 

These dignities and titles he had inherited 
from a long line of ancestors. The Count of 
Haro of those days was made Grand Constable 
upon the field of Najera, where the Black 
Prince and Pedro the el Cruel, or el Justiciaro, 
according to the bent of the historian, defeated 
Du Guesclin, the great mercenary soldier, and 
Henry de Trastamara, Don Pedro's bastard 
brother, and the usurper of his throne. Even 
in those days, the Velascos were an ancient 
family, for the saying was, "Before that God 
was God, or the sun lit up the mountains, the 
Quiros were Quiros and the Velascos, Vel- 
ascos."* 

These things came to him by inheritance, 
after he had given himself the trouble to be 
born, as dignities, titles and estates have come 

♦Antes que Dios fuese Dios 6 el sol iluminaba los penascos, 
Los Quiros eran Quiros y los Velascos, Velascos. 
The Quiros was another ancient family. 

"5 



FIN DE RACE 

to many a slobbering fool, with piping 
eunuch's voice, weak knees and weaker 
mind. 

In Bernardino's case. Nature having set her 
hand to the plough had not looked backwards, 
but driven a straight furrow, till her task was 
done. Alert and active as an Arab or a Navajo, 
his well-shaped hands and feet, his little ears 
that clung like limpets to his head with its crop 
of dark brown hair, aquiline nose, small mouth 
and teeth, as white as, says tradition, were 
those of Allah's own messenger, our Lord 
Mahommed, gave him an air of race. When 
he walked into a room, he looked like a 
young thoroughbred amongst a bunch of cart- 
horses. 

Quick-witted and a good linguist, he spoke 
Spanish and English indiflFerently^ for he had 
been at Eton, and his mother was the daughter 
of Balfe, the composer of the Bohemian Girl. 
French he was quite at home in, and Portu- 
guese from his long residence in Portuguese 
East Africa, and Arabic enough to swear at 
camel-drivers, when their animals upset his 
horse. His father had been a legendary aristo- 
crat, such as Balzac might well have chosen 

ii6 



FIN D E RACE 

for the hero of one of his minor studies of 
mankind. 

Dumas would have seized upon him with 
avidity, for he appeared to have walked 
straight from his novelsy or rather, never to 
have emerged from them. 

He started life the owner of great estates, 
that stretched half over Spain from Cordoba 
to La Rioja, a paUce in Madrid, in Biarritz 
the Villa Frias, and wonderful old houses in 
several towns, such as La Casa del Cordon in 
Burgos, a splendid specimen of a Renaissance 
mansion of a Spanish gentleman. 

All these possessions he' proceeded to get rid 
of, chiefly at the gaming table^ and by always 
living as if the Rand, Golconda, Ouro Preto, 
Kimberley and the platinum mines of the 
Choco had been his private property. He died, 
as befitted a Spanish nobleman of his kidney, 
greatly impoverishedy leaving to his son, 
Bernardino, but a tithe of his vast properties. 
What he could not help bequeathing him was 
his handsome figure and quick wit. His 
English mother left him her blue eyes and a 
slight English accent in speaking Spanish that 
never left him till his dying day. Perhaps it 

117 



FIN D E RACE 

was not quite an accent, but an intonation^ for 
naturally he spoke his native language per- 
fectly. 

His English, although perfect, also still had 
a fainty almost imperceptible tang about it, 
such as an iron key, to which a leather label is 
attached, dropped into a whole pipe of wine, 
is said to leave a tinge of leather and of iron 
to the fastidious palate of the connoisseur. 

His mother left him, in addition to the in- 
tonation and blue eyes, musical talent that his 
friend and master Sarasate used to say, had 
he but had the spur of poverty, would have 
made him one of the first violinists of the 
world, little inferior to himself. 

As a childy he used to play upon his grand- 
father's violin (a fine Amati), almost by in- 
stinct, and after Sarasate took him in hand, as 
a, mere lad at Eton, his aptitude was the delight 
and the despair of the' great virtuoso, who 
stood entranced when after a few lessons his 
pupil executed passages with ease that others 
after months of study failed to execute. Upon 
the other hand, nothing would make him 
study, or devote the hours to practice that 

ii8 



FIN DE RACE 



alone gives to natural talent technical success. 
I do not say that Sarasate tore his hair^ for he 
was far too careful of his appearance, but he 
used to say, "If but Don Bernardino would 
devote himself for a whole year to music, 
under my tuition, with the natural talent that 
he has, and with the halo of his title encom- 
passing his head, he might go to America, that 
paradise of snobs, and return home a million- 
aire." Thus spoke Sarasate, much in the vein 
of Zarathustra (by the mouth of Nietsche), 
but it was not to be. Nature had done her 
best, but even she is powerless before fate. 

In every branch of life she had done all she 
could, for Frias was a perfect horseman, with 
the hands that only nature gives and that no 
teaching and all the practice in the world can- 
not supply, for, in the words of the old Spanish 
saw^ "What nature does not give, Salamanca 
is powerless to lend." A good shot, excellent 
fencer and a tireless walker, he had a constitu- 
tion that only years of dissipation at last under- 
mined. With all these gifts, nature had 
omitted to endow him with a sense of responsi- 
bility. All through his life he acted after the 
fashion of one of Captain Marryat's midship- 

119 



FIN D E RACE 

men, or like a child sent into a pastrycook's, 
without the hand of a controlling nurserymaid. 
What he fancied he would have, no matter at 
what costy and yet he was not wanting in a cer- 
tain kind of common sense. Like many men 
of his position, he talked twenty per cent 
above his real ability, from having mingled on 
familiar terms with politicians of high rank, 
great artists, writers, engineers, and leaders of 
society. He had not the least shadow of a pose, 
and, like all Spaniards, had the same manner 
when he addressed a carter or a prince. 

Women adored him, for he had that mag- 
netic personality that attracts them, as valerian 
attracts cats, or jam left on a table is a certain 
lure to wasps. 

Nothing was further from his mind than 
were ulterior motives, and certainly no man 
ever sought for personal advantage less than 
he did, from the cradle to the grave. 

'Tis true he never paid his debts, except 
those falsely called of honour, contracted at 
the card tables^ whereas the only real debts of 
honour are to the baker, butcher, bootmaker 
and tailor, that a man owes for value he re- 
ceives. 

120 



FIN DE RACE 

As a mere boy just after he left Eton, as 
Count of Haro, for he was not then Duke of 
Frias, as his father was alive, he drifted to 
Tangier^ as an unpaid secretary to the Spanish 
minister. 

Those were the days when Tangier was one 
of the most fascinating places in the whole 
world to live inj a miniature Constantinople, it 
had representatives of every Court in Europe, 
a consul-general from the United States, and 
ministers or consuls^ who behaved like min- 
isters, from many South American Republics. 
Flags of the various nations fluttered from 
half a hundred houses in the town. Adven- 
turers who styled themselves presidents of 
Patagonia, kings of Araucania, and other hypo- 
thetic statesy hoisted the flags of their fantastic 
countries, and whilst their money, lasted, if 
they were presentable, spoke "diplomatic 
French," were not seen drunk in public, or 
committed any flagrant misdemeanour, were 
received as cordially in the tolerant society of 
the place as if they had been representatives 
of rea,l countries to be found upon the map. 
The Moors looked on them all with awe^ 
mixed with amusement, and regarded them as 

121 



FIN DE RACE 

amiable madmen who, for some purpose of his 
own that he had not disclosed, Allah had en- 
dowed with the command of fleets and armies, 
and with mighty engines of destruction, so that 
it behoved the faithful to walk warily in their 
dealings with them. Tangier was then one of 
the dirtiest towns in the whole world, outside 
of China, but perfectly safe to live in^ for 
robberies were rare and crimes of violence 
practically unknown, and though most Euro- 
peans "packed," as cowpunchers used to say, a 
pistol, it was quite unnecessary. The advance 
of progress and international control had not 
at that time partially cleaned the streets, nor 
had the' scum of the Levant and criminals from 
Europe made the place nearly as subject to 
robberies and crimes as are most European 
towns. Into this pleasant, evil-smelling, pictur- 
esque and old-world little town, where every 
European who could aflFord five-and-twenty 
dollars for a horse equipped himself with 
boots and spurs and rode about splashing 
the dirty water of the streets on the foot- 
passengers, with as much disregard of conse- 
quences as John the Baptist when he per- 
formed mass baptism in the Jordan, the young 

122 



FIN DE RACE 

Count of Haro was propelled, by destiny. 
From the first day he found himself at home. 
As if by magic all the Moors seemed to know 
him. Certainly he was a striking figure on his 
horse, with the wind blowing up the front brim 
of the wide grey felt hat that people wore in 
those days in Tangiery and his air of careless 
insouciance, for he was at the age when one has 
bought the world on credit and not received 
the bill. He never seemed to go to the Lega- 
tion, which for that matter seemed to go on 
quite well without him, under the management 
of one of those staid diplomatists who, at that 
time in Spain, either finished up their career 
at some small German Court or at Madrid, as 
"Ministre des Affaires Inutiles." 

But as even the unpaid secretary of a Lega- 
tion .must have a serious object in his life, 
Friasy who by this time was one of the chief 
figures of the British colony, passing much 
more of his time with them than with his 
countrymen, entered into partnership with 
Crawhall, the painter, a kindred spirit and as 
fine a rider as himself, to hunt the Tangier 
hounds. He constituted himself master, and 
nominated Crawhall as first whip, and with 

123 



FIN D E RACE 

the assistance of a nondescript youth born in 
Gibraltar, who maltreated English and 
Spanish^ quite indifferently, but had a good 
acquaintance with all the oaths and the foul 
language of both tongues, rode well and 
boldly, and answered to the name of "Mata- 
burro," he started out on the first serious busi- 
ness of his life. Nothing was stranger than to 
see Frias — for by his father's death he had 
succeeded to the dukedom — and Crawhall at a 
meet of the Tangier pack: Frias immaculately 
dressed in pink, his whip in a weather-stained 
mulberry-coloured hunting frock, with "Mata- 
burro" in a pair of tightly-fitting Spanish 
trousers, patched at the seat with cloth of a 
different colour^ a bull-fighter's flat hat from 
Cordoba,, tied with a bit of greasy black elastic 
underneath the chin, and alfargatas on his feet. 
The pack was a collection such as it would be 
difficult to match in any country, with its three 
couple of mangy-looking foxhounds, from 
Gibraltar, with several mongrels of undecided 
race that Mataburro always referred to as "the 
bastards," and three or four half-bred fox- 
terriers. Foxes were scarce^ and the hetero- 
geneous pack ran wildly, the "bastards" keeping 

124 



FIN DE RACE 



up a perpetual yelping, and at a check, the 
terriers snapping at the other dogs or fighting 
fiercely with one another. 

Anyone who had a horse came out, and 
when the run, if there had been one, or in any 
case the gallop, finished, a cap went round 
into which Frias always put a sovereign, "to 
warm it," as he said. It often formed the 
bulk of the day's takings, for nearly everybody 
seemed to have forgotten to bring money 
with him. Some fairly slunk away when they 
had an opportunity^ others remained behind 
to tighten up their girths, or slacken them, and 
others cantered off, shouting out, "Adios, 
Duque, I will send on a sovereign when I get 
home." Needless to say it never came, but 
Berna,rdino cared nothing for it, for by his 
father's death he found himself, although his 
father had disposed of most of his estates, with 
ready money in his pocket that seemed inex- 
haustible. As they rode home, leaving the 
pack to be brought back by Mataburro, a duty 
he performed after having filled his pockets 
full of stones, to throw at laggers, Frias would 
show the empty cap to Crawhall with a laugh, 
and CrawhaU, who spoke but little but when 

125 



FIN DE RACE 

he did so always to the point, would mutter, 
"What a crowd of sons of bitches," and jog 
silently along. 

These were the halcyon days whilst money 
lasted, ^nd before Bernardino had turned into 
the desperate gambler that he afterwards be- 
came. Though some of the great family 
estates had come into his possession, they were 
but a tithe of those which his father owned. 
The Villa Frias, in Biarritz, had been sold 5 
most of the lands of El Paular, not far off 
from Segovia, a domain of mountain and of 
wood, full of all kinds of game, from wolves, 
lynxes and wild cats to deer, hares, rabbits 
and partridges, had gone to satisfy the money- 
lenders. Gone were the estates in which the 
mediaeval castle of the Frias reared its head 
upon a rock j the overlordship of the towns that 
once the family possessed 3 gone was La Casa 
del Cordon in Burgos, and the ancestral palace 
in Madrid. Still, enough had survived that, 
had Bernardino but possessed a little of that 
common sense that nature had forgotten to en- 
dow him with at birth, he might yet have re- 
trieved his fortunes with good management, 
for his estates, like those of almost every other 

126 



FIN DE RACE 

Spanish nobleman, were left to an adminis- 
trator, and produced but a mere fraction of 
their worth. Care, prudence, management, 
were things that Bernardino never understood, 
if indeed he knew that they existed. Slowly 
but steadily he began to pile up debts, to 
borrow money from his administrators, to lend 
to anyone who asked him, and to tread with 
filial affection the path his father had marked 
out for him. 

Old-fashioned Spaniards nodded their heads 
and said that it was lucky that El Duque had 
not been born a woman, for he was unable to 
say "No." 

Everyone liked him, and he went on hunt- 
ing his mongrel pack of hounds, gambling and 
losing far more than he could afford, Ox some- 
times pay, except by giving orders on his ad- 
ministrators, who, like the unjust steward in 
the Bibley invariably wrote fifty in their books 
when the amount was ten. 

Although he never practised, occasionally he 
played the violin at High Mass in the Francis- 
can chapel, rising on one side of the choir, 
immaculately dressed and executing Sarasate's 
Habaneray or some piece of Chopin's with all 

127 



FIN DE RACE 

the grace of a consummate virtuoso, whilst the 
packed audience of every nationality longed 
to break out into applause, only restraining 
their admiration because they thought that it 
would not be pleasing to the Deity. 

Outside, the Spanish loafers, Portuguese 
fishermen^ the convicts who had escaped from 
El Pefion de la Gomera, or from Alhucemas, 
and the Italian sailors from the port, who had 
been kneeling in the street, beating their 
breasts and crossing themselves at the proper 
places, now and then cursing the hardness of 
the cobble-stones they kneeled upon, broke 
into unrestrained applause. Possibly, if he 
observed them, when he looked down upon the 
world occasionally^ the Deity that the devout 
were fearful to oflFend gave them a kindly 
smile. 

It was in Tangier that he met his wife, an 
English lady who at the time of their marriage 
was almost as irresponsible as he was himself, 
and overhead in love with him, as she remained 
throughout her life, in spite of his long 
absences, his innumerable infidelities, and his 
perfect disregard of everything that marriage 
should imply. The difference between them 

128 



FIN DE RACE 

was that advancing years, and the feeling of 
impending catastrophe, that always seemed to 
hover about Bernardino^ making you feel that 
in the Scottish phrase he was "fey," altered 
her character and made her fit for a long time 
to struggle with the money difficulties that 
soon overwhelmed them. 

He himself did not seem to feel that there 
was any danger, or if he did, resigned himself 
to fate, like the historic Indian who swept over 
Niagara in a canoe, ceased paddling, folding 
his arms before the plunge. Tangier became 
too difficult to live in, for debts accumulated, 
and to meet them the only way was to borrow 
at exorbitant interest from usurers in Madrid, 
or to sell bits of property at any price that they 
would fetch. Transferred to Vienna as second 
or third secretary, Tangier saw nothing of him 
for several years. No place in Europe could 
have been so dangerous for him as was the 
Vienna of those days. A gay society, with 
nearly all its members votaries of high play, 
women who changed their lovers almost as 
often as their gowns, everything was there to 
attract Bernardino Frias and to encourage him 
to run more desperately into debt. 

129 K 



FIN DE RACE 

With Buda-Pesth for an occasional holiday 
and a run home to Madrid, where he belonged 
to all the clubs — and in the clubs in those days 
in Madrid everyone gambled — the long-ex- 
pected crash that everyone had seen was bound 
to come took place. A disagreeable business at 
the card tabley the rights and wrongs of which 
were never brought to light^ and Vienna be- 
came too hot for him. Madrid was too expen- 
sive for a man in his position, a personal friend 
of the King, Alfonso XII, the father of the 
Dom Alfonso now dethroned and a wanderer. 
Moreover it was not congenial to his wife, who 
cared nothing for society, and at that time 
spoke little of the language. Once more he 
drifted back to Tangier, where he had spent 
so many of his happiest years. Money was 
scarcer with him than of old. Crawhall came 
out only in winter, and his old crony Bibi 
Carleton was settled in Alcazar el Kebir^ run- 
ning a flour mill, and, to the delight of all his 
friends, consular agent of Great Britain, with 
an enormous Union Jack above his house. 

Frias and his wife settled down at the "New 
York Hotel" upon the beach, a third-rate 
caravanserai run by a Catalan, one Don 

130 



FIN DE RACE 

Anselmo, a most long-sufFering man as regards 
payment of his bills, and always ready to 
supply El Duque with any money he required. 
Not that Anselmo was a usurer, for I believe 
he never charged a penny for the relatively 
large sums with which he "facilitated" Ber- 
nardino, as runs the Spanish phrase. Frias and 
his wife, who was a first-class horsewoman, 
kept several horses, that Mataburro, now 
better dressed and less disreputable, looked 
after, and styled himself "the Duke's stud- 
groom." They went out pigsticking^ for 
Bernardino was a first-class "spear," riding as 
if he had a dozen necks to break, and still had 
one to spare in his coat pocket. 

The scandal at the Austrian Court became 
forgotten, and Tangier Society would have 
opened wide its tolerant portals to them. His 
wife cared less and less for any gaiety, and 
Bernardino, who at that time drank far more 
whisky than was good for him, played cards 
with all and sundry, losing more than he could 
aflFord, with anyone who cared to play with 
him. 

His love aflFairs were innumerable^ although 
he always said, I think quite honestly, that he 

131 



FIN DE RACE 

had never really loved another woman than 
his wife. 

Certainly he asked her advice on all occa- 
sions, but never followed it. Had he but done 
so, he would have had a less disastrous ending 
to his life, for^ as the proverb has it, "A 
woman's advice is of small value, but he who 
does not take it is a fool." 

It never seemed to have occurred to him that 
he had still two properties in Spain. One, in 
the province of Cordoba and another in 
Toledo, just where that province joins Estre- 
madura. The property in Cordoba that was 
situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir was 
one of those great flat expanses of alluvial 
soil common in Andalusia, and was practically 
a great olive yard. It is quite possible that 
Bernardino had never seen it in his life, or 
visited it but once or twice. Though probably 
encumbered, it was absolutely his own 
property, inherited from his ancestors. An 
administrator rack-rented the tenants, and most 
certainly cheated the owner to the best of his 
ability. Occasionally Frias would say, I will 
do this or that "when I receive my olive 
money." This, I think, was the sole interest 

132 



FIN DE RACE 

he took in the place, for in those days few 
Spanish noblemen lived on their estates, but 
spent their rents either in Madrid or Paris, 
Biarritz, Deauville or Ostend. In such resorts 
they passed their timey in what is called High 
Life, with gamesters, pimps and players, with 
jockeys, cocottes, bull-fighters, and similar in- 
decencies. 

These gentry soon consumed most of what 
had been left of the great Frias properties. 
Frias still hung about Tangier, living but 
poorly with his wife in the "New York Hotel" 
upon the beach, a hostelry that, with the dis- 
comforts of a Spanish fonda of those times, 
still lacked the saving grace of picturesqueness. 
However^ we all frequented it, partly because 
of "Auld lang syne" and partly because the 
proprietor Anselmo never sent in a bill unless 
it was demanded of him, and was always will- 
ing to oblige with a small loan without security. 
Our horses lived in a ramshackle stable at the 
back, and only cost us a peseta for their keep. 
Mataburro, who was paid irregularly, presided 
over the Moorish lads, who served as grooms, 
and stole the horses' corn with regularity, in 
spite of various double-thongings that Frias, 

133 



FIN DE RACE 

Bibi and Crawhall used to administer when 
they caught him in the act. 

Then he would curse a little, rub his 
shoulders, and swear by all the saints that 
one day he would have the blood of some of 
them. Nobody minded what he said, for all 
knew that, in the words of Moliere, "cinq ou 
six coups de baton ne font que regaillardir 
Pamour,'' and he well knew he' was a universal 
favourite. 

All things, apparently, must have an end, 
and one day, as I sat with the duchess having 
the concoction of birch bark that passed as tea, 
Frias came in, and throwing down his whip 
upon the table, quite with the air of Brennus 
when he cast his sword into the scales, called 
for a whisky and announced briefly: "I am 
ruined and have not a peseta in the world." 
We all knew that, so no one spoke, till his wife 
asked him what he proposed to do. 

Nothing would make him listen to his wife's 
advice, that they should leave Tangier and 
settle down on his own property in Spain and 
see that it was properly administered. "No, 
no," he said, "I could not stand life in the 
Spanish country, the eternal chaffering with 

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FIN DE RACE 

the peasants, or the attending one of the local 
councils, to debate wha,t price we ought to give 
for a pair of wolf's earsy when you were certain 
all the time the man who bought them in had 
only shot a dog." 

It appeared he had heard that in Lisbon the 
Duke of Albuquerque was going out to Portu- 
guese East Africa, with some kind of an ex- 
pedition, of which he was the chief. "Pll wire 
to him," he said, "and see if he can take me 
with him as deputy administrator, or anything 
he likes." He framed a telegram, as lawyers 
say when it figures in your account. Then it 
appeared he had no money for the telegram. 

Anselmo handed him two dollars, and get- 
ting on his horse, he said, "Pll take it," and dis- 
appeared upon the beach, galloping furiously. 
An hour passed by and he returned, explain- 
ing that he had not sent the telegram, for a 
poor Spanish woman had begged for alms from 
him, and as he said. "Whatever could I do?" 

Eventually the' telegram was sent, and in a 
day or two the answer came offering him the 
post of deputy administrator in Mozambique. 
He sailed from Lisbon, taking with him, 
luckily as it turned out, a Moor from Sus, 

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FIN DE RACE 

known as Abdallah el Susi, who was much 
attached to him, as personal servant, groom^ 
gun-carrier, or anything that might turn up in 
a wild country. 

Slight and well-made^ active, not very dark 
in colour, and speaking Spanish perfectly, 
Abdallah had been in a circus, had visited most 
of the European capitals, and spoke, as well as 
Spanish, some English and a word or two of 
French. A strict Mohammedan, who in his life 
had never taken any drink, or even smoked a 
cigarette — for drink, of course, his faith pro- 
hibited, and smoking he called "drinking the 
shameful" — he looked on Frias, as he said, as 
his father, meaning that he admired him for 
his open-handedness, his generosity, and his 
wild ways. 

"El Duquc is a child of the illegitimate," 
by which he meant he was afraid of nothing, 
for in Arabic the phrase is used just as the 
Spaniards in Cervante's time used "Hideputa," 
and the Elizabethan English whoreson, either 
in praise or blame. 

After a week in Lisbon and a fortnight in 
London, getting his colonial outfit of things 
that generally prove absolutely useless in a 

136 



FIN DE RACE 

colonyy Frias, in his new character of deputy 
administrator, clothed in a khaki uniform, then 
a new and mysterious fabric, with a sword en- 
closed in a leather-covered scabbardy and 
crowned with a slouch hat such as our troops 
wore in the Boer War, accompanied by 
Abdallah, sailed for Port Amelia. During 
the fortnight he had got rid of the last remains 
of his own and his wife's ready money, and 
pawned his violin that his friends had to re- 
deem, and must have sailed almost penniless. 
Luckily his expenses were all paid. 

He left his wife to administer his property. 
After a long dispute and several law-suits, she 
managed to get the most urgent of the claims 
against her husband paid, and some of the 
usurers who had lent money at monstrous rates 
of interest satisfied. 

Most of her private fortune had been 
already sacrificed to pay the debts her husband 
had incurred, chiefly at the card-table. 

As was to be expected, Frias and Al- 
buquerque, a careful colonial administrator, 
soon came to loggerheads, and Frias found 
himself without a penny, in a colony where 
white men, except the very poorest, never did 

137 



FIN DE RACE 

manual work. However, he was still well 
under f orty^ and with Abdallah, now his one 
friend and his companion, went to work at 
daily wages on the roads. He must have 
suflFered terribly, not in his pride, for Spaniards 
are devoid of snobbishness, but in the hard toil 
under the tropic sun, to which his former life 
had not accustomed him. His real and praise- 
worthy pride stopped him from writing to his 
wife for assistance. 

Abdallah probably suffered less, for in his 
youth he had worked as a boatman on the 
Moroccan coasts. He found a wife amongst his 
co-religionists, and then, as Frias used to say, 
"We had better food and got our shirts 
washed regularly." 

Six months went past, and then Abdallah 
found a second wife, and things went easier, 
with the two strangely assorted friends. 

They bought a boat, and used to take out 
cargo to the ships in Port Amelia, toiling, as 
Frias said, like galley slaves, at the great 
clumsy oars. For a short time they prospered^ 
and Abdallah hired some negroes to help him 
in the boat. 

Frias obtained a post as manager of a 

138 



FIN D E RACE 

plantation, but soon lost it, as he had no iaea 
of business, hated confinement at a desk, and 
when his pay came in, used to resort to a little 
town upon the coast to gamble, indulge in dis- 
sipation, and return to the plantation in a 
miserable state. 

Nine years went by, years that he never 
cared to speak ofy but that must have' been a 
hell. 

His wife sent money when she could 5 but 
he instantly lost it at the gaming-table, drifted 
once more back to the roads at daily wages, 
whilst suffering terribly from tropical diseases, 
the result of working in the sun and rain, with 
every now and then a trip to Ibo, and its dis- 
sipations. By this time Abdallah had become 
quite a substantial man in a small way. Occa- 
sionally he led the prayers in the mosque, 
began to lard his speech with bits of the Koran, 
had several children, and was beginning to 
grow stout. 

He never touched an oar^ but steered his 
launch, dressed in immaculate white clothes^ 
with a well-pleated turban on his head, and a 
stout wooden rosary in his left hand. Nothing 
impaired his friendship and respect for his old 

139 



FIN DE RACE 

master, for the nine years of hardships and 
adventure they had passed together had 
blotted out all difference of ^nk, of race, 
almost of religion, though both of them, as 
often happens in men of their sort, though lax 
in practice, were staunch believers in their 
creeds. 

How it all happened Frias never was quite 
sure. Abdallah, had he survived, would have 
said that "it was written," which after all is 
perhaps the best way to explain anything. 

Coming back from a vessel in the roads upon 
a stormy day in their launch laden with 
merchandise, running the surf that they had 
negotiated a hundred times, their boat upset. 
The negro crew swam to shore like Newfound- 
land dogs, emerging on the sand as easily as a 
Kanaka rides the surf. Frias, though not a very 
powerful swimmer, got ashore somehow or 
other, and lay exhausted on the beach. 
Abdallah never reappeared. 

Thus Frias always used to say: "I lost the 
best friend that I ever had." Probably this 
was true enough, for, with the exception of the 
Moor, of "Creeps" and "Bibi," he had no real 
friendsy after the way of men who easily make 

140 



FIN DE RACE 

friends with everybody. 

After Abdallah's death, and having wasted 
nine years of his life, if life spent in adventure 
and hard work is ever really wasted, finding 
himself with enough money to pay his passage, 
second- or third-class, he came back to Europe, 
as penniless as when he set out. 

This was the fashion of his coming home: 

Seated one day in my flat in Basil Street, 
cursing the rain that fell as ceaselessly as when 
Shakespeare's clown was a very little boy^ the 
maid told me that a foreign sailor-looking man 
wanted to see me at the door. I looked at him, 
and for the moment did not recognise him. 
Dressed in an old blue suit, unshaved and 
miserably thin, white canvas shoes upon his feet 
and carrying a bundle and a dilapidated suit- 
case, I hesitated, till he said: "Dino, Bernardino 
Frias, don't you recognise me?" 

We had what is called in Spanish "un cordial 
abrazoy" that is an embrace, such as you read 
of in the Bible, when friends met after an 
absence. An hour passed like a minute, as he 
told of his nine years' purgatory, from which 
he had returned, penniless and suffering either 
from malaria, framboesia, or some tropical 

141 



FIN DE RACE 

disease or other. 

Then he went off to join his wife, who lived 
some little distance out of town. 

The luck had turned^ if he had only known 
how to profit by it. During his absence, his 
wife had shepherded his estates, so that he had 
a tolerable income, and thus the nine years of 
exile had not been wasted. For six months all 
went well, and then he gradually went back to 
his old ways. "The wild goat always seeks the 
wood," the proverb says, and in his case the 
proverb was unfortunately true. Back in 
Madrid, he soon became a friend of King 
Alfonso XIII, joined the best clubs, where 
play was high, and lived with people far richer 
than himself. 

Named Senator for Cadiz, he tried politics, 
but had no aptitude for them, and fell back to 
the life of a man without occupation about 
Madrid. 

Then as his wife hated Madrid and had to 
educate their daughter^ he tried country life, 
on one of his own properties, and built a shoot- 
ing lodge, where he lived, often for months 
together, with several boon companions and a 
girl rather inappropriately called Modesta, 

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FIN D E RACE 

whom he had met at a street corner one night 
after the theatre. 

Not pretty and but moderately faithful to 
him, she must have cared for him in the way 
most Spanish women care for the man they 
live with, treating them half as superior beings 
and half as children that it is woman's place 
to work for, put up with their neglect, pardon 
their infidelities, half to love, half to despise, 
but not to leavey till they are cast off or till 
death separates them. 

The property "El Deheson del Encinar" 
had a most curious history, one that in Spain 
alone would have been possible. 

Two hundred and fifty or more years ago, 
the King of those days borrowed a large sum 
of money from the Duke of Frias. He gave 
for his security the lands of the Deheson del 
Encinar, in the province of Toledo, close to the 
boundary of Estremadura. Nine miles or so 
away was situated the castle of Oropesa, an 
ancestral seat of the Frias family, on a high 
rock dominating the town of the same name, 
of which the family were overlords. 

The bargain was that the Frias family 
should own the lands until the debt was paid. 

143 



FIN DE RACE 

These lands were owned or claimed by five 
small townships, who from the first protested 
that their rights had been infringed. 

Time passed and the Frias family treated the 
property as their own, drawing the rents, put- 
ting in tenants of their own, and building 
houses for them, sinking wells, and planting 
what had practically been waste land with 
olives^ cork trees, and with oaks. It became 
valuable and the five townships went to the 
courts a,lleging that the money had been long 
ago repaid, but taking no notice of the improve- 
ments that the family had made. 

Justice in those days was not a speedy matter 
with the Spaniards. It was so leaden-footed 
that it became a byword, crystallised in the 
"pawky" sayings: "Paper and ink and little 
justice," and "Justice if you like, but not in 
my house." In the outer world the phrase, 
"May death come to me from Spain," was a 
proof of the national deliberation in affairs. 
Sometimes the Courts decided for the towns 
and sometimes for the family, according to the 
greater or the lesser influence the contending 
parties brought to bear. In either case, the loser 
instantly appealed, and so the thing went on, a 

144 



FIN DE RACE 

perfect instance of the "ganging plea" so dear 
to Scottish as well as Spanish justice in the 
great days of old. 

Sometimes the matter was allowed to rest 
for years, but naturally such a gold-mine for 
the lawyers in Madrid was not permitted to 
remain long derelict. 

The Frias family had never had a house on 
the estate. Either from prudence, a virtue that 
few of them possessed, or because they had 
houses or estates all over Spain, or perhaps be- 
cause they never visited El Deheson except to 
shoot, they had but seldom made, in Spanish 
legal phrase, "an act of presence." 

Nine miles from Oropesa, and three miles 
from the nearest made road, the property was 
approached by a sandy track that ran through 
oak woods, passing a considerable stream, just 
where a little chapel known as El Cristo stood. 
In summer, the water hardly came up to a 
horse's knees, and as there was a bottom of 
hard sand, a carriage or a motor-car could pass 
it easily. In winter, it was quite another matter, 
and could be crossed, when it was practicable, 
only on horseback or in a bullock-cart. At times 
it was a foaming torrent impossible to cross, 

145 



FIN DE RACE 

and then El Deheson was cut off from the 
outer world, except by a long detour, for 
several days. Then the track ran through more 
wood, and crossed another stream, but smaller 
than the first, and finally ended quite suddenly 
in a little clearing, in which stood the house, a 
long, low, one-storey building, such as a child 
draws on a slate. All through the woods, 
silent, deserted, and unearthly-looking after 
dark, when great moths sailed about and bats 
flew screaming through the trees, the under- 
wood seemed all alive, just as it does in a 
primeval forest when night falls and the 
nocturnal animals set out upon their rounds. 
Rabbits ran scuttling across the sandy track, 
hares loped gracefully before the carriage, or 
the car, dazzled by the lights. Foxes peeped 
out or barked like jackals in the underwood. 
Now and then the mewling of a wild cat or a 
lynx, or an owPs hooting, broke the stillness of 
the night. 

All was so desolate and wild, silent and 
melancholy under the beams of the Castilian 
moon that the road might have led to a ranch 
in Mexico, in the recesses of La Sierra Madre 
or the Bolson de Mapimi. 

146 



FIN DE RACE 



In daylight, the house stood stark, sur- 
rounded by a few old oaks, without a garden, 
planted shrubs or anything to soften oflF the 
hardness of the Castilian landscape. The fields 
were not enclosed, but wheat was planted over 
a vast extent of ground, between the cork trees 
and the oaks. A stream whose high banks was 
fringed heavily with willows^ ran close to the 
house. Taking advantage of the cover, in the 
winter, wolves made their way down from the 
mountains in their nocturnal raids. 

A fence of strong wire-netting, twelve feet 
at least in height, kept them off from the house. 
In winter, especially when snow was on the 
ground, they came and howled outside the 
barrier, and were answered by the dogs either 
through terror or by affinity of race. Even in 
summer they were heard occasionally. Their 
melancholy, long-drawn-out howl once heard, 
never to be forgotten, that seems to chill the 
marrow of the bones, especially when heard 
alone, far off from houses, with your horse 
trembling underneath you, was quite in keep- 
ing with the wildness of the place. 

Grey olive trees and greyer oaks grew out 
of the red soil. Only the cork trees, when their 

147 



FIN D E RACE 

bark had been stripped off, leaving a bright, 
red-looking wound, gave a note of colour 
standing out vividly in the keen atmosphere of 
the high Castilian plain. 

Some ten miles off La Sierra de Credos stood 
out as starkly from the steppe as the Rock of 
Gibraltar juts up from the sea. Its serrated 
peaks, unearthly-looking as the mountains of 
the moon, grey and forbidding in the early 
morning, at sunset, when the sun's declining 
rays lighted them up before it set, were a great 
mass of opaline, or jade, and of rose quartz, 
irradiating a hundred shades of colour like an 
old crystal chandelier. In its recesses wandered 
still the Capra Hispanica, deer, lynxes, wild 
cats, a^n occasional bear, together with in- 
numerable wolves. 

The whole estate, overrun with rabbits, 
hares, with flocks of partridges, and bands of 
wild duck in the winter, was a sportsman's 
paradise. 

In it perhaps the owner passed the last year 
of his life, if not exactly happily, yet to a great 
extent absolved from care. 

His wife and daughter lived in England, 
and though he never spoke of them without 

148 



FIN DE RACE 

respect and loved them as the poet loved 
Cynara, faithfully, in his own fashion, he 
seldom saw them, or at the best on a brief run 
to Paris or Madrid. 

All his dependants loved and imposed upon 
him to the best of their ability. His friends, 
and almost every woman, called him Dino, and 
so he lived much as Don Quixote livedo with 
a thin horse, plenty of equally thin grey- 
hounds, and for all I know a brace of ferrets, 
as bold as those owned by the Manchegan 
knight. 

In fact, a veritable "Hidalgo de Gotera," 
that is, a nobleman with a leaky house. Always 
in want of money, for though the rents of his 
two properties were not contemptible, Madrid 
and its temptations were as fatal to his purse 
as had been the town of Ibo whilst he lived in 
Africa. 

His guards — for in his time all Spanish 
gentlemen had guards on their estates, who 
rode about, looked after poachers, frequently 
standing in with them, pretended to protect the 
house at night, which they did sleeping com- 
fortably in their own cottages — all swore by 
him. 

149 



FIN DE RACE 

A curious set they were, dressed in green 
corduroy, with a broad baldric, bearing a brass 
plate embossed with the Frias arms, crossing 
their chests, short jackets, and brown gaiters 
and alpargatas on their feet. They all rode 
maresy as they explained, on account of the pro- 
duce, and carried some sort of gun fastened to 
their dilapidated Jerezano saddles. 

The chief of them, one Nicolas, a tall, 
athletic man, and first-class rider, had been a 
sergeant in the Cuban wars. Courteous and 
affable he was a rogue in grain, but still in his 
own way was faithful to the Duke, singing his 
praises upon all occasions, respecting though 
invariably cheating him, when opportunity 
occurred. 

The second was a bird of quite another 
feather, by name Ignacio. Honest and 
taciturn, just as good a horseman as was 
Nicolas, and a far better shot, his fellows all 
respected though they feared him, for it was 
known that in his youth he had killed some- 
one or another, and escaped going either to 
Ceuta or to El Penon de la Gomera, in penal 
servitude, but by a miracle. 

The other two were colourless, and they 
150 



FIN DE RACE 

with one Manuel, a nondescript, whose duties 
were to go to Oropesa once a day upon his 
donkey to bring the letters and to collect the 
news, made up "the guard." These duties, 
generally, took him nearly all the day, and 
he returned at nightfall full of excuses for 
unavoidable delays. Either his donkey had 
cast a shoe, the train was late^ or there were 
rumours that "bad people" had been seen upon 
the road, and he had waited to return till he 
had company. Modesta, helped by a gypsy- 
looking, untidy girl, ran the house^ with one of 
the guards' wives to do the cooking, serving up 
thick country soups, stews, seasoned with saf- 
fron, and, strange as it may seem^ digestible. 

Frias, like most Spaniards of his rank, knew 
and appreciated good cooking, having lived 
much in Paris, but, like them, was too indolent 
to bother, or perhaps in his heart despised 
those who did, and ate all that was set before 
him without a comment, washing it down with 
the coarse country wine, almost as strong as 
brandy, and as intoxicating. 

How long this sort of life might have gone 
on only God knows, and He, as say the Arabs, 
never tells, so that it does not matter much 

151 



FIN DE RACE 

whether He knows or not, as we are none the 
wiser for His knowledge. 

Had he lived longer, most likely he would 
have fallen into poverty, for he still gambled 
wildly on his visits to Madrid, kept no accounts, 
and went on generally as if Golconda had been 
his in tail settled on him and his heirs male. 

He kept his looks to the last day he lived, 
proving the truth of the old Spanish saw: 
"Figure and genius to the grave." 

Always on horseback in all weathers, after 
long bouts of dissipation in Madrid, one day 
your damned bronchitis took him, after a 
common cold. 

This, in the keen air of the Castilian up- 
lands, turned to pneumonia. His wild life, 
joined to the hardships of his nine years in 
Africa, had broken down a constitution that 
had been made of iron. 

Helped by the gypsy girl, and assisted by 
an ill country doctor, Modesta tended him up 
to the last, perhaps with affection, but certainly 
with a fidelity that in itself was her reward. 

If on the night he died the wolves howled 
in the woods around the house, nothing could 
have been a more fitting threnody. 

152 



THE STATIONMASTER'S HORSE 



THE STATIONMASTER's HORSE 



After the long war in Paraguay, the little rail- 
way built by the tyrant Lopez, that ran from 
Asuncion to Paraguari, only some thirty miles, 
fell into a semi-ruinous condition. 

It still performed a journey on alternate 
days, and ran^ or rather staggered, along on a 
rough track, almost unballasted. Sleepers had 
been taken out for firewood, by the country 
people here and there, or had decayed and 
never been replaced. The line was quite un- 
fenced, and now and then a bullock strayed 
upon it and was run down or sometimes was 
found sleeping on the track. Then the train 
stopped, if the engine-driver saw the animal in 
time. He blew his whistle loudly, the passen- 
gers all started, and if the bullock refused to 
movey got down and stoned it off the line. The 
bridges luckily were few, and were constructed 
of the hard imperishable woods so plentiful 
in Paraguay. They had no railings, and when, 
after the downpours of the tropics, the streams 
they crossed were flooded, the water lapped up 
and covered them to the depth of several 
inches, so that the train appeared to roll upon 

155 



THE ST AT I O N M AST E R ' S HORSE 

the waters, and gave the passengers an experi- 
ence they were not likely to forget. The 
engine-driver kept his eyes fixed firmly on a 
tree or any other object on the bank, just as a 
man crossing a flooded stream on horseback 
dares not look down upon the rushing waters, 
but stares in front of him^ above his horse's 
head. Overhead bridges fortunately did not 
exist, and there was but a single cutting in the 
thirty miles. It filled with water in the rains, 
and now and then delayed the trains a day or 
two, but no one minded, for time was what the 
people had the most of on their hands, and 
certainly they were not niggardly in the dis- 
posal of it. 

The engines that burned wood achieved a 
maximum of ten miles an hour, but again no 
one minded, for that was greater than the speed 
of the bullock carts to which they had been 
accustomed all their lives. 

Thus they looked on the railway as a marvel, 
and spoke of it as a sign of progress that 
ennobled man and made him truly only a 
little lower than the angels and the best 
beloved creation of the Deity. 

Shares, dividends, balance sheets, and all the 

156 



THE ST A T I O N M A S T E R ' S HORSE 

rest of the mysterious processes without which 
no railway in these more favoured times can 
run a yard, were never heard of, for the line 
was run by Government, who paid the salaries 
of the engine-drivers, who were all foreigners, 
when they had any cash in hand. When there 
was none, the officials, who had all married 
Paraguayan women, were left dependent on 
their efforts for a meal. 

The telegraphy with the wires sagging like 
the lianas sagged from tree to tree in the great 
woods through which the greater portion of 
the line was built, was seldom in good order, 
so that as it stopped at the rail-head of the 
line, the better plan was to entrust a letter to 
the guard or engine-driver. 

Certainly that little line through the prim- 
eval forest, with now and then breaks of open 
plain, dotted here and there, with the dwarf 
scrubby palms called yatais, was one of the 
most curious and interesting the world has 
ever known. The trains in general started an 
hour or two behind the time that they were 
supposed to start, picking up passengers like an 
old-time omnibus. Men standing at the corner 
of a wood waved coats or handkerchiefs, or in 

157 



THE ST AT I O N M AST E R ' S HORSE 

some cases a green palm leaf, to the engine- 
driver. He generally slowed down his impetu- 
ous career to about three miles an hour, and then 
the signaller^ running alongside, was pulled 
up by a score of willing hands stretched out to 
him. In the case when the signaller had women 
with him, or a package too heavy to be thrown 
upon a truck in motion, the train would stop, 
the people scramble up, and haul their package 
up after them. Sometimes a man on horseback, 
urging his horse up to the train, with shouts, 
and blows of his flat-lashed "rebenque" that 
sounded much severer than they really were, 
and keeping up a ceaseless drumming of his 
bare heels upon its flanks, would hand a letter 
or a little packet to the engine-driver or to some 
travelling friend. At times the train appeared 
to stop, for no apparent reason, as nobody 
appeared out of the forest, either to pass 
the time of day or to enquire the news. Upon 
inclines, active young men sprinted behind 
the train until they caught up the last wagons j 
then, encouraged by the riders — for to call 
them "passengers" would be an unnecessary 
euphemism — and placing a brown hand upon 
the moving truck, they vaulted inboard and lay 

158 



THE ST AT I O N M A S T E R ' S HORSE 

breathless for a minute, perspiring plentifully. 
At places such as Luque^ Ita and Ipacaray, the 
little townships through which the harbinger 
of progress ran, the stops were lengthy. 

Women in long white sleeveless smocks 
(their only garment) went about selling "chipa" 
— the Paraguayan bread of mandioca flour, 
flavoured with cheese^ as indigestible as an old- 
fashioned Pitcaithly bannock — pieces of sugar- 
cane, oranges and bananas, rough lumps of dark 
brown sugar^ done up in plantain leaves, and 
tasting of the lye used in their manufacture, 
with other delicacies called in Spanish "fruits 
of the country."* The sun poured down upon 
the platform, crowded with women, for men 
were very scarce in Paraguay in those days. 
They kept up a perpetual shrill chattering in 
Guaranij occasionally in broken Spanish, plenti- 
fully interlarded with interjections, such asBaie 
pico, Iponaite^ Afiariu, in their more familiar 
tongue. Outside the station the donkeys on 
which the women had brought their merchan- 
dise nibbled the waving grass or chased one 
another in the sand. A scraggy horse or two, 
looking half starved and saddled with a miser- 

♦"Frutos del pais.'* 



THE ST A T I O N M AST E R ' S HORSE 

able old native saddle, the stirrups often a mere 
knot of hide to be held by the naked toes, 
nodded in the fierce sun with his feet hobbled 
or fastened to a post. After a longer or a shorter 
interval, the stationrnaster, generally ^ell- 
dressed in white, his head crowned with an offi- 
cial semi-military cap,, his bare feet shoved into 
carpincho leather slippers down at heel, and 
smoking a cigar, would appear upon the plat- 
form, elbow his way amongst the crowd of 
women, pinching them and addressing sala- 
cious compliments to those he deemed attrac- 
tive, till he reached the guard or engine-driver, 
gossip a little with him,, and signal to a female 
porter to ring the starting bell. This she did 
with a perfunctory air. The engine-driver 
sounded his whistle shrilly, and the train, in a 
long series of jerks, as if protesting, bumped 
off from the platform in a cloud of dust. 

Difference of classes may have existed, but 
only theoretically, like the rights of man, 
equality^ liberty, or any of the other men- 
dacious bywords that mankind loves to write 
large and disregard. No matter what the pas- 
senger unused to Paraguay paid for his ticket, 
the carriage was at once invaded by the other 

i6o 



THE ST AT I O N M AS T E R ' S HORSE 

travellers, smoking and talking volubly and 
spitting so profusely that it was evident that no 
matter what diseases Paraguay was subject to, 
consumption had no place amongst them. 

The jolting was terrific, the heat infernal, 
and the whole train crowded with people, who 
sat in open trucks, upon the tops of carriages, 
on footboards, or on anything that would con- 
tain them, smoking and chattering, and in their 
white clothes as the train slowly jolted on- 
wards, looking like a swarm of butterflies. Cer- 
tainly its progress was not speedy, but as a 
general rule it reached its destination, though 
hours behind its time. 

Having to write one day from the railhead at 
Paraguari to Asuncion, only some thirty miles 
away, as the train started by a miracle at the 
hour that it was advertised to start, I missed it, 
and as the trains ran only on alternate days, 
the telegraph was not in working order, and no 
one happened to be going to the capital, some- 
one advised me to borrow a good horse and 
overtake the train at some of its innumerable 
stoppages. 

The stationmaster lent me' his Zebruno, that 
is a cream colour, so dark as to be almost brown, 

i6i 



THE ST AT I O N M A ST E r' S HORSE 

with a black mane and tail, a colour that in the 
Argentine is much esteemed as a sure sign of a 
good constitution in a horse, and staying power. 

He proved a little hard to mount, for he was 
full of corn and seldom ridden, and more than 
a little hard to stay upon his back for the first 
few minutes, a little scary, but high-couraged 
and as sure-footed as a mule. 

I overtook the train some ten miles down the 
line, at a small station — Ita, if I remember 
rightly — after a wild ride, on a red sandy road, 
mostly through forest, close to the railway 
line, so that it was impossible to lose the track, 
although I did not know a yard of it. 

Now and then it emerged upon the plain, 
and then, taking the Zebruno by the head, who 
by this time was settling down a little, I touched 
him with the spur. He answered, snorting, 
with a bound, and then I made good time. 

I gave the letter to the engine-driver, who 
put it carefully into the pocket of his belt, 
crumpling it up so that it looked like a 
dead locust. Then wishing me good luck on 
my ride home, for night was falling, the road 
was almost uninhabited, tigers abounded and 
there was always a chance of meeting with "bad 

162 



THE ST ATI O N M AST ER^S HORSE 

people" ("mala gente"), he cursed the country 
heartily, lit a cigar, spat with precision on to 
the track, released his lever and slid into the 
night. 

The cream colour, who had got his second 
wind and rested, reared as the hind-lights 
passed him, and as I wheeled him, struck into 
a steady gallop that, as the phrase goes, "soon 
eats up the leagues.'' 

A light breeze raised his mane a little and 
set the palm trees rustling, fireflies came out 
and lit the clumps of the wild orange trees, 
looking like spirits of disembodied butterflies 
as they flitted to and fro. Occasionally we — 
that is the cream colour and myself — ^had a 
slight difference of opinion at the crossing of a 
stream, when the musky scent of an unseen 
alligator or an ominous rustling in the thickets 
startled him. 

As we cantered into Paraguari, he was still 
pulling at his bit, and nearly terminated my 
career in this vale of tears by a wild rush he 
made to get into his shed, that was too low to 
let a man pass underneath on horseback. I 
thanked the stationmaster for his horse, un- 
saddled him, emptied a tin mug of water over 

163 



THE ST AT I O N M AST E R 'S HORSE 

his sweating back, and threw him down a 
bundle of fresh Pindo leaves to keep him occu- 
pied till he was ready for his maize. 

Then I strolled into the station cafe, where 
Exaltacion Medina, Joao Ferreira, and, I think, 
Enrique Clerici were playing billiards, whilst 
they waited for me. 



164 



Date D' e 



C.3 



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